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Supreme Court considers limiting EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases

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Supreme Court considers limiting EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases

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The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a series of cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, potentially limiting the Biden administration’s options to reduce pollution caused by global warming planetary.

The lawsuits, filed by Republican-controlled states and a West Virginia oil company, seek to restrict the federal government’s power to force a transition away from fossil-fueled power plants.

If the Conservative 6-3 majority in the High Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the ruling would not eliminate the federal government’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, a legal ruling known as the endangerment finding name. However, this would restrict legal avenues through the Clean Air Act to pass such rules. This could make it more difficult for the United States to meet its goal of halving its emissions by the end of this decade.

These stakes are even higher since the White House abandoned its main legislative proposal to pay utilities to produce more zero-carbon electricity, and impose fines on those who do not increase their own production each year after that. Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) said it would torpedo the administration’s agenda if Democrats included the measure in a high-profile spending bill.

The problem is a legal problem of 1990, when then President George HW Bush mistakenly signed two slightly different versions of the Clean Air Act, creating legal confusion over the line between federal power and the power of the State of greenhouse gas regulation.

When proposing its Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration relied on the version of the law interpreted to give agencies more authority. In February 2016, the Supreme Court focused on the legal ambiguity surrounding the law known as Section 111 (D) to issue a temporary pause in the implementation of the regulation. Before the White House could resolve the issue, the Trump administration took over and confided in Scott Pruitt – the former Oklahoma attorney general who led the trial that resulted in the suspension of the Clean Power Plan. – the responsibility of the EPA. The Clean Power Plan was dropped soon after.

Shortly before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals for the United States determined that the Clean Power Plan was legally sound, rejecting regulation much weaker than the Trump administration. proposed to replace.

The Biden administration is still working on a number of regulations aimed at reducing emissions, and none so far build on the already controversial Section 111 (D).

“It’s just this one Clean Air Act, which is one of the many tools the administration has at its disposal,” Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center on Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, told HuffPost. . “I don’t think that’s a problem for most of the measures the administration might want. But there is this particular tool that could be in trouble.

The court could, however, seek to “seize this as an opportunity to rule more broadly on the ability of Congress to delegate decisions to agencies” and could “say that Congress is going to have to give the EPA authority over such an important area and be more clear and explicit.

This would probably constitute a victory for the complainants. With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Democrats must vote at the same pace to pass a bill, giving unique power to isolated senators like Manchin, whose opposition to climate regulations and personal family fortune tied to a business of charcoal have made him a magnet. for donations from the fossil fuel industry in the past year. He would be unlikely to vote for legislation giving the EPA new powers to regulate greenhouse gases. And Republicans are favored to win back at least one chamber of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.

“In practice, this will almost certainly prevent the Biden administration from moving forward with a new rule to regulate carbon emissions from the electricity sector,” Jeff Holmstead, an EPA air administrator During the time of George W. Bush, who now works on energy lobbying firm Bracewell, said in an emailed statement calling the decision “a huge deal and a big surprise.”

“They will have to wait and see what the Supreme Court says on how (and if) they can regulate carbon emissions from the electricity sector under current law,” he added.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the most powerful and well-funded environmental litigators, pledged on Friday to fight the cases in the Supreme Court.

“Coal companies and their state allies are asking the court to remove the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to significantly reduce the nearly 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon pollution released by power plants across the country every year – an authority that the Court has upheld three times in over the past two decades, ”said David Doniger, senior strategic director of the NRDC’s climate and clean energy program, in a statement. “We will vigorously defend the authority of the EPA to limit the enormous contribution of power plants to the climate crisis.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who signed the lawsuit, called the court’s decision to hear the case “the biggest news from the Supreme Court since our victory in February 2016.”

“We must not allow Biden’s EPA to impose illegal climate rules on our nation,” he wrote in a Tweeter.

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