Supreme Court Guts the U.S. EPA’s Ability to Limit Carbon Emissions

The consequences of this ruling have long been foretold. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now officially barred from the fight against climate change, Congress will have to act to reduce carbon emissions.

June 30, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


New Jersey Power Plant

EQRoy / Shutterstock

“The Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in a 6-3 ruling handed down Tuesday that will have far-reaching implications on the federal government’s ability to fight climate change,” reports Ben Adler for Yahoo News.

The case, West Virginia v. EPA, asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the U.S. EPA under the Trump administration violated the Clean Air Act by weakening planned limits on carbon emissions from power plants. The decision, according to Adler, “[signals] to future administrations that the pollution causing climate change can go effectively unregulated, and leaving the job of passing binding emissions restrictions to Congress.”

“The court further agreed with a collection of Republican-led states and coal industry groups that the EPA, because its head is a political appointee, cannot accelerate the power sector’s transition from fossil fuels to clean energy because that goes beyond the powers granted to the EPA under the Clean Air Act,” adds Adler.

The Clean Power Plan, released in 2015 by the U.S. EPA under the Obama administration, was considered the nation’s most significant emissions reduction effort, but the Clean Power Plan never took effect, after the U.S. Supreme Court suspended the plan in February 2016 after a bipartisan coalition of 24 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency in October 2015. The Trump administration replaced the rule in 2019 with the “Affordable Clean Energy Plan.”

Enter the legal battle that preceded today’s ruling. Adler explains:

Petitioners such as the American Lung Association sued to get the rule reinstated, arguing that the Clean Power Plan was legally valid and the Trump-era replacement known as the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which did not require anything except modest gains in efficiency from coal-fired plants, was too weak to meet the EPA’s legal obligation to regulate carbon dioxide. (In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Massachusetts v. EPA that the EPA is required to regulate carbon dioxide because it causes climate change, and the Clean Air Act mandates that the agency regulate “any air pollutant” that can “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”)

 Eventually, West Virginia challenged that ruling, leading to the decision announced today.

Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Yahoo News

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