Thursday, June 30, 2022

Supreme Court Limits E.P.A.’s Authority on Emissions, Striking Blow to Biden Administration's Climate Change Agenda

Well good.

At WSJ, "Supreme Court Puts Brakes on EPA in Far-Reaching Decision":

High court says agency overstepped its authority in restricting greenhouse gas emissions in a ruling with ramifications for other regulators.

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal regulators exceeded their authority in seeking to limit emissions from coal plants in a decision that sharply curtails the executive branch’s authority to make policy actions on a range of issues without congressional direction.

In a blockbuster 6-3 decision penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped when it devised the Obama-era regulatory scheme, known as the Clean Power Plan. The plan had been challenged by West Virginia and others.

The court said that when federal agencies issue regulations with sweeping economic and political consequences—in this case, rules to address climate change—the regulations are presumptively invalid unless Congress has specifically authorized the action.

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” the chief justice wrote, faulting the EPA for finding new powers in “the vague language of a long-extant, but rarely used, statute.”

Beyond the EPA, the decision is likely to rein in President Biden’s ability to use other departments and regulators such as the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address climate change, one of his signature policy initiatives.

Mr. Biden called the court’s ruling “a devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards.”

“I have directed my legal team to work with the Department of Justice and affected agencies to review this decision carefully and find ways that we can, under federal law, continue protecting Americans from harmful pollution, including pollution that causes climate change,” Mr. Biden said.

The principle articulated by the court, known as the “major questions doctrine,” was mentioned in earlier cases but is being recognized more explicitly now, said Gautam Hans, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.

“The court has now really explicitly relied on this doctrine to limit the EPA’s authority, and other regulatory agencies are going to be more cautious now that they have to navigate this,” Mr. Hans said.

With Congress often mired in gridlock, Mr. Biden and his Democratic predecessors have used regulation instead of legislation to advance their policy agendas, Mr. Hans said...

In the case decided Thursday, West Virginia led a coalition of Republican-leaning states and coal producers that asked the Supreme Court to weigh in and clarify the limits of the EPA’s authority.

For half a century, the Clean Air Act has directed the EPA to regulate stationary sources of air pollution that endanger “public health or welfare.” The Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which never went into effect because it was blocked by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, extended that regulatory reach beyond the physical premises of a power plant to allow off-site methods to mitigate pollution.

The Trump administration in 2019 implemented a replacement rule that was more friendly to the coal industry. But in January 2021, on the last day of Mr. Trump’s presidency, a federal appeals court in the District of Columbia struck down the replacement rule, providing the Biden administration with a clean slate to work from in devising its own carbon-emissions rules.

Justice Elena Kagan said in a dissent on Thursday that the Obama-era EPA had exercised broad authority given to it by Congress, and that the Supreme Court keeps thwarting the agency’s lawful efforts to address a climate crisis.