The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have authority to set standards on greenhouse-gas emissions for existing power plants.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court sides with conservative states and fossil-fuel companies in adopting a narrow reading of the Clean Air Act.
Here is the opinion from John Roberts in West Virginia v. EPA: https://t.co/ret7VxSSpj. The three liberal justices dissent.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 30, 2022
The decision limits how far the executive branch can go in forcing new environmental regulations on its own.
“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’ But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d),” Chief Justice John Roberts said in the Court’s opinion, referencing Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.
“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
— NPR (@NPR) June 30, 2022
Fox Business reported:
The case stemmed from the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan which aimed to reduce carbon emissions at power plants by pushing a shift from coal, to natural gas, and ultimately to wind and solar energy. The plan was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016, and then repealed by the Trump administration and replaced by the less extreme Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule.
After President Biden took office, the ACE Rule became the subject of litigation that led to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating that rule as well as the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The Biden EPA, however, has stated that it will not reinstate the Clean Power Plan, opting instead to develop and implement its own plan.
The question of how much power the EPA has was based on a provision in Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, which grants the EPA power to set “standards of performance” for existing sources of air pollutants as long as they take into account cost, energy requirements, and non-air health and environmental impacts.
The Trump EPA, in repealing the Clean Power Plan, took the position that Section 111 only let them determine measures to be implemented at the physical power plants themselves (an “inside-the-fence-line” restriction) and not broadly-applied measures for entire industries.
Similarly, West Virginia and other states claimed that Section 111 does not allow the EPA to go so far as to make rules that would completely reshape American electrical grids or force industries to eliminate carbon emissions altogether.
West Virginia’s argument is based on the “major questions doctrine,” which says that even though federal agencies generally have broad rule-making power as delegated by Congress through the statutes that create them, when it comes to issues of major economic and political significance to the country those statutes need to have clear language to support the agency’s action.
Read the opinion for West Virginia v. EPA HERE.