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Supreme Court to Hear Case on EPA’s Power to Limit Carbon Emissions

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Supreme Court to Hear Case on EPA’s Power to Limit Carbon Emissions

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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear appeals from Republican-led states and coal companies asking it to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“It’s the equivalent of an earthquake across the country for those who care deeply about the climate issue,” said Richard J. Lazarus, professor of law at Harvard.

The court’s decision to take the case came days before President Biden attends a world climate summit in Scotland where he seeks to reassure other nations that the United States will continue to pursue aggressive policies to fight against global warming.

In January, the last full day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, a Washington federal appeals court overturned his administration’s plan to ease restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The move allowed the Biden administration to issue more stringent restrictions.

A three-judge split panel from the tribunal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruled that the Trump administration’s plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, was based on an “error d ‘fundamental interpretation’ of the relevant law, prompted by a ‘tortured series of misreadings’.

The panel did not reinstate an Obama-era regulation in 2015, the Clean Power Plan, that would have forced utilities to move away from coal and turn to renewables to reduce emissions. But he rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal and replace that rule with what critics called toothless.

The Obama-era plan aimed to reduce emissions from the electricity sector by 32% by 2030 from 2005 levels. To do so, it called on each state to develop plans to phase out electricity. carbon emissions from power plants by phasing out coal and increasing the production of renewable energy.

The measure never entered into force. It was blocked in 2016 by the Supreme Court, which effectively ruled that states were not required to comply until a barrage of lawsuits from conservative states and the coal industry had been resolved. That decision, followed by changes in the composition of the Supreme Court that shifted it to the right, made environmental groups wary of what the court might do in climate change cases.

Shortly after Mr. Trump was elected, his EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan.

Professor Lazarus said the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case threatened to “sharply reduce, if not completely eliminate, the ability of the new administration to use the Clean Air Act to significantly limit emissions of gas to greenhouse effect of the country’s power plants “.

Groups supporting the industry hailed the tribunal’s decision to grant the review.

“The Supreme Court will reconsider the EPA’s massive claims to rethink entire industries rather than simply demanding improved technology,” said Devin Watkins, an attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank that works. opposes most environmental regulations. “This is great news because the agency does not have such enormous power under the law.”

The Biden administration had urged judges not to hear the case, saying the court should wait for the administration to enact its own regulations “after taking into account all relevant considerations, including changes in the industry. electricity in recent years. “

States and businesses on the other side, according to the administration’s brief, “urge this tribunal to grant a review now to help guide future rule-making, but it’s little more than a request for an inadmissible advisory opinion “.

A brief filed by West Virginia and more than a dozen other states urged judges to act now.

“How we respond to climate change is an urgent issue for our nation, but some of the ways forward come with serious and disproportionate costs to states and countless other parties involved,” the brief said. “Continuing uncertainty over the scope of the EPA’s authority will impose costs that we can never recoup as the EPA, the state and others will be forced to commit even more years and resources.” to a business that is, at best, legally uncertain. The tribunal should intervene now.

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