U.S. SC ruling sides with most EPA greenhouse controls

By Chris Dickerson | Jun 24, 2014

WASHINGTON – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling will stop the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring permits for greenhouse gas emissions from new or modified industrial facilities.

The court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority by altering the emissions standard for greenhouse gases in the Clean Air Act to regulate more stationary sources. The opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said only Congress can do that.

The Court's 5-4 ruling Monday, which in part reverses a 2012 federal appeals court decision, is being seen as a small victory for the energy industry and other opponents of more federal regulations who argue that the EPA's proposed changes could cost billions to implement and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs.

The ruling did say the EPA could regulate greenhouse gas emissions from industries already required to get permits for other air pollutants. That would include power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities responsible for most emissions. That section of the ruling was a 7-2 vote with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting.

"It bears mention that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case," Scalia wrote in the opinion, adding that to require permits for all industries "would contradict the principle that Congress, not the president, makes the law, and would undermine the separation of powers that is crucial to our constitutional system of government."

"Today is a good day for all supporters of clean air and public health and those concerned with creating a better environment for future generations," the EPA said in a release. "The Supreme Court's decision is a win for our efforts to reduce carbon pollution, because it allows EPA, states and other permitting authorities to continue to require carbon pollution limits in permits for the largest pollution sources."

The decision means the EPA can go ahead with new regulations on existing coal-fired power plants, which will have to cut emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Industry leaders, conservatives and Republican lawmakers claim the 1970 Clean Air Act doesn't empower the administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, was one of those.

"Our office is currently reviewing today's Supreme Court decision, but we are very pleased that the majority of the Court ruled the EPA exceeded its authority by changing the emissions threshold for greenhouse gases," Morrisey said in a statement Monday. "We believe that kind of change can only be made by Congress, and it is refreshing to see that the Supreme Court shares our belief.

"Our hope is that today's decision serves as a wake-up call to the EPA and the Obama Administration that it cannot govern by fiat and must adhere to the Constitution. West Virginia correctly weighed in on this case -- another example of how our office will always stand for the rule of law."

Earlier this year, the Court delivered what most consider a major victory for the Obama administration's EPA when it upheld a rule foricing 28 states in the Midwest and South to cut ozone and fine particle emissions that migrate north and east into other states.

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