U.S. Supreme Court limits EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions

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Published Friday, July 1, 2022
by Richie Malouf

(The Center Square) - The Environmental Protection Agency does not have the authority to broadly regulate carbon emissions from American power plants without Congressional approval, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The 6-3 decision was made in West Virginia v. EPA with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion of the court.

The court ruled that the Clean Air Act, the United States' primary federal air quality law, does not grant the EPA the broad authority to require existing coal-fired power plants to reduce their own production of electricity or to subsidize the increased generation of natural gas, wind or solar energy.

Rather, the court ruled, this authority lies with Congress.

"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,'" Roberts wrote. "But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme."

"A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body," he added.

Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said the court was correct in its ruling, arguing that the EPA could not act in a capacity when only Congress has the power to do so.

"I am pleased to see the Supreme Court recognized and upheld Congress's Article I authority," Rodgers said. "This decision restores power to the people through their elected representatives. This will help restore trust and confidence in representative government."

Other conservatives, too, joined in celebrating the court's decision.

ConservAmerica, a national nonprofit organization advocating for market-based solutions to solve environmental challenges, said that only the people, as represented by Congress, can answer questions of what the national policy response should be on serious issues such as climate change.

"Only bipartisan, Congressional action can yield a policy that is both durable and capable of addressing the global nature of the problem, "ConservAmerica's Vice President of Government Relations Todd Johnston said. "The solutions to climate change ultimately lie in policies that spur collaboration and technological innovation and are in harmony with our energy and economic needs."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the court was right to restrain the EPA's attempt to impose costly regulations without input from Congress.

"Today's landmark victory against an out-of-control administration is also a big win for Americans who worry about skyrocketing energy costs due to expensive federal regulations that threaten our energy industry," Abbott said. "President Biden cannot keep attacking the energy industry and the hardworking men and women who power our nation."

Democrats did not share the same sentiment.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. D-N.J., said the ruling undermined the will of Congress and was a result of coordinated efforts made by special interests and Republicans.

"Today's decision makes a mockery of the clear separation of powers outlined in our Constitution and subverts decades of settled law," Pallone said. "All the Court has achieved today is putting Americans in the crosshairs of dangerous air pollution and a growing climate crisis which threatens us all."

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper D-Del., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, also said he disagreed with the court's decision.

"While EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources under the Clean Air Act remains the law, the Court's decision is way out of step with reality," Carper said. "This ruling hampers our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a rapid and cost-effective way, which is bad for our economy and planet."

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