Supreme Court limits the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a ruling which limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions.

As noted by The Washington Examiner, the ruling came in response to a petition from coal-producing states and coal companies that had asked the high court to establish whether the Clean Air Act gives the agency the authority to restrict power plant emissions. The Court ruled in a 6-3 vote that the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA such broad authority.

“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,’” said Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion for the court.

“The only question before the Court is more narrow: whether the ‘best system of emission reduction’ identified by EPA in the Clean Power Plan was within the authority granted to the Agency in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act,” he said, adding, “For the reasons given, the answer is no.”

The court held that Congress must be specific if it desires to give an agency the authority to regulate something that has become an issue of national significance.

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” said Roberts.

In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the decision strips the EPA’s power needed to respond to “the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.” Kagan added, “The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

The White House condemned the courts decision, saying in a statement: “This is another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards. While the Court’s decision risks damaging our ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, President [Joe] Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis. Our lawyers will study the ruling carefully and we will find ways to move forward under federal law. At the same time, Congress must also act to accelerate America’s path to a clean, healthy, secure energy future.”

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN, also weighed in on the the decision, calling it “a setback in our fight against climate change, when we are already far off-track in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.”



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