In a move that now surprises absolutely no one, the US Supreme Court today ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the authority to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants.
The 6-3 decision, which the three liberal judges disagree with, makes it increasingly likely that a Congressional decision will be needed to create regulations to curb global warming.
“Congress did not grant the EPA the power under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to set emissions limits based on the generation-shifting approach the Agency took in the Clean Power Plan,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. , who was joined by the five other conservative judges on the bench.
According to the EPA’s view of Section 111(d), Congress implicitly, and only, has charged it with balancing the many vital national policy considerations involved in basic regulation of how Americans get their energy. Roberts wrote. “There is little reason to believe that Congress has done that.” In cases like this he said:[a] decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or with any agency acting on the clear delegation of that representative body.”
The dissident judges disagreed with Roberts’ assessment, arguing instead that the EPA has clear jurisdiction under the Clean Air Act in this case.
“Congress charged EPA with addressing that potentially catastrophic damage, including through regulation of fossil fuel-fired power plants,” Judge Elena Kagan wrote in the dissent. “Section 111 of the Clean Air Act instructs EPA to regulate stationary sources of substances that ’cause or contribute significantly to air pollution’ and that could reasonably be expected to endanger public health or well-being.” Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases fit that description.”
The case arose when the state of West Virginia sued the EPA, challenging its authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal and natural gas-fired power plants under the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 Obama administration policy. would have required states to implement their own plans to reduce carbon pollution starting this year before coming into full effect by 2030. It was predicted that CO2 emissions would be reduced by 32%.
The Obama EPA estimated that the rule would bring in $26 billion to $45 billion in net benefits, including $14 billion to $34 billion in health benefits.
The Trump administration attempted to circumvent the rule, primarily by changing the way the agency assessed the health effects of pollution-reduction policies. That amendment was rejected in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, although the court did not reinstate the Clean Power Plan itself.
The Biden administration has also not attempted to bring back the Clean Power Plan, but has instead made its own rules. This latest Supreme Court decision will no doubt throw a nut in those plans.
In her dissenting opinion, Kagan pointed to the potential consequences of the majority’s decision. “The causes and dangers of climate change are no longer in serious doubt. Modern science is “unequivocal that human influence” — particularly emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide — has “heated the atmosphere, the ocean and the land,” Kagan wrote, citing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“If current emissions continue, children born this year could live to see parts of the east coast being swallowed by the ocean,” she said. Heat waves and severe weather can force mass migrations, civil unrest and the failure of governments around the world. By the end of the century, she said, 4.6 million people could die from climate change-related causes.