Supreme Court to Hear Greenhouse Gas Rule for Power Plants


by Tom Borelli

The coal industry might get a reprieve from death row if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that EPA bureaucrats went too far when the agency issued greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources such as power plants.

The court agreed to hear the case to determine if the EPA inappropriately applied the Clean Air Act to include permitting regulations for stationary sources of carbon dioxide emissions when the agency issued regulations for motor vehicles. Stationary sources of emissions include power plants, refineries and factories.

Unfortunately, the court rejected to hear two additional parts of the EPA’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases. The court refused an appeal on EPA’s endangerment finding that concluded greenhouse gases threaten humans, triggering the agency’s authority to act under the Clean Air Act. The court also rejected to hear a challenge to the EPA’s regulation for motor vehicle emissions.

The consequences of the court’s decision for the coal industry are uncertain. Some experts think the narrow question about EPA’s permitting process that the court plans to review will not have any impact on the agency’s recently proposed rule on power plants since these regulations are from a different part of the Clean Air Act.

From The Washington Post:

Indeed, many environmental groups seemed relieved by the court’s decision. “It means the way is clear to issue carbon pollution standards for power plants under the president’s Climate Action Plan,” said David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “What the Supreme Court will review is one specific, narrow question.”

Other experts feel otherwise:

Brian Potts, a lawyer specializing in environmental regulation at Foley & Lardner, says that the Supreme Court could in theory “gut EPA’s ability to regulate stationary sources like power plants.” But, he adds, he thinks the EPA is on fairly solid legal footing with its permitting program.

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