On Monday, June 23, the Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expansion of authority for the first time in years.
The case was Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. A major part of the case was the EPA’s attempt to bypass Congressional support for any regulations it might want to pass. Justice Scalia wrote, “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule (whereby it expanded its regulatory power), we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
However, while the Supreme Court’s decision emphasizes the lasting power of Constitutional checks and balances on the branches of government, the outlook is not so cheerful for coal-fired electricity generation plants or large factories.
The American Petroleum Institute called the ruling a “stark reminder that the EPA’s power is not unlimited.” However, as Justice Anton Scalia wrote in his majority opinion, “It bears mention that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.” As Reuters pointed out, “… as a result of the ruling, roughly 83 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that could potentially be regulated under the EPA’s interpretation of the law would still be covered, compared with the 86 percent of emissions that the EPA had hoped to regulate.”
Thus, while some smaller sources of greenhouse gas emissions will not be affected by this case (churches and shopping centers, for example), the EPA has not lost any power it needs to enforce its rulebook on the American industry. The Washington Post reported that the ruling “does not in any way curtail the EPA’s underlying authority to treat GHGs as pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.”
Also, the Court decided that “The petitions for a writ of certiorari should be denied.” This means that a court of lower standing will not be able to do research for, or preview cases related to, the Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. case. The Supreme Court will handle all such matters personally, which could be taken as a sign of integrity or of finality.
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