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    Supreme Court limits EPA authority to set power plant climate standards

    The Supreme Court ruled that Congress, not the EPA, has authority to set standards on climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants.

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    Supreme Court limits EPA authority to set climate standards for power plants

    PUBLISHED THU, JUN 30 202210:06 AM EDTUPDATED THU, JUN 30 20226:29 PM EDT

    Emma Newburger @EMMA_NEWBURGER Dan Mangan @_DANMANGAN WATCH LIVE KEY POINTS

    The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set standards on climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants.

    The court ruled 6-3 that Congress, not the EPA, has the power to create a broad system of cap-and-trade regulations to limit emissions from existing power plants in a bid to transition away from coal to renewable energy sources.

    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the case, known as West Virginia v. the EPA. The majority opinion was joined by the court’s other five conservative members.

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    Supreme Court says EPA does not have authority to set climate standards for power plants

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set standards on climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants.

    In its 6-3 ruling, the court said that only Congress, not the EPA, has the power to create a broad system of cap-and-trade regulations to limit emissions from existing power plants in a bid to transition away from coal to renewable energy sources.

    The decision is a major setback for the Biden administration’s agenda to combat climate change, specifically the goal to zero out carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and cut in half the country’s emissions by 2100.

    The case stems from the EPA’s directive in 2015 to coal power plants to either reduce production or subsidize alternate forms of energy. That order was never implemented because it was immediately challenged in court.

    Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the second-largest source of pollution in the U.S. behind transportation, according to the EPA. The U.S. is also the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases behind China, making it a key player in global efforts to combat climate change.

    The Longview Power Plant, a coal-fired plant, stands on August 21, 2018 in Maidsville, West Virginia. The plant’s single unit generates 700 net megawatts of electricity from run-of-mine coal and natural gas.

    Spencer Platt | Getty Images

    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the case, known as West Virginia v. the Environmental Protection Agency. His opinion was joined by the court’s other five conservative members.

    The decision is the first time a majority opinion explicitly cited the so-called “major questions doctrine” to justify a ruling. That controversial doctrine holds that with issues of major national significance, a regulatory agency must have clear statutory authorization from Congress to take certain actions and not rely on its general agency authority.

    Roberts wrote, “There is little reason to think Congress assigned such decisions” about the regulations in question to the EPA, despite the agency’s belief that “Congress implicitly tasked it, and it alone, with balancing the many vital considerations of national policy implicated in deciding how Americans will get their energy.”

    “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’” Roberts wrote. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”

    “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” Roberts added.

    Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, which was joined by the court’s two other liberals. “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time,’” Kagan wrote in the dissent.

    “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening,” Kagan wrote. She also said, “The majority claims it is just following precedent, but that is not so. The Court has never even used the term ‘major questions doctrine’ before.”

    A White House spokesperson on Thursday said the EPA ruling was “another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards.”

    “President Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis,” the spokesperson said. “Our lawyers will study the ruling carefully and we will find ways to move forward under federal law.”

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the ruling “adds to a number of dangerously outrageous decisions that have rightly tarnished the public’s confidence in the Court.”

    “First on gun safety, then on abortion, and now on the environment — this MAGA, regressive, extremist Supreme Court is intent on setting America back decades, if not centuries,” Schumer said. “The Republican-appointed majority of the MAGA Court is pushing the country back to a time when [robber] barons and corporate elites have complete power and average citizens have no say.”

    Source : www.cnbc.com

    Supreme Court limits Biden's power to cut emissions

    The landmark ruling curbs federal power to limit greenhouse gas emissions in a setback for President Biden.

    Supreme Court limits Biden's power to cut emissions

    By Esme Stallard

    BBC News Published 16 hours ago

    IMAGE SOURCE, GETTY IMAGES

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has lost some of its power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court represents a major setback to President Joe Biden's climate plans.

    He called it a "devastating decision" but said it would not undermine his effort to tackle the climate crisis.

    The case against the EPA was brought by West Virginia on behalf of 18 other mostly Republican-led states and some of the nation's largest coal companies.

    They argued that the agency did not have the authority to limit emissions across whole states.

    These 19 states were worried their power sectors would be forced to move away from using coal, at a severe economic cost.

    In a 6-3 ruling, the court sided with the conservative states and fossil-fuel companies, agreeing that the EPA did not have the authority to impose such sweeping measures.

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    Attorney General Eric Schmitt for Missouri - one of the 19 states - called it a "big victory... that pushes back on the Biden EPA's job-killing regulations".

    The court hasn't completely prevented the EPA from making these regulations in the future - but says that Congress would have to clearly say it authorises this power. And Congress has previously rejected the EPA's proposed carbon limiting programmes.

    Environmental groups will be deeply concerned by the outcome as historically the 19 states that brought the case have made little progress on reducing their emissions - which is necessary to limit climate change.

    The states made up 44% of the US emissions in 2018, and since 2000 have only achieved a 7% reduction in their emissions on average.

    "Today's Supreme Court ruling undermines EPA's authority to protect people from climate pollution at a time when all evidence shows we must take action with great urgency," said Vickie Patton, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

    IMAGE SOURCE,

    EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

    It means President Biden is now relying on a change of policy from these states or a change from Congress - otherwise the US is unlikely to achieve its climate targets.

    This is a significant loss for the president who entered office on a pledge to ramp up US efforts on the environment and climate.

    On his first day in office he re-entered the country into the Paris Agreement, the first legally-binding universal agreement on climate change targets.

    And he committed the country to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 52% by 2030 against 2005 levels.

    "While this decision risks damaging our nation's ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, I will not relent in using my lawful authorities to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis," he said.

    The outcome of this case will be noted by governments around the world, as it will affect global efforts to tackle climate change. The US accounts for nearly 14% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

    A United Nations spokesman called it "a setback in our fight against climate change" but added that no single nation could derail the global effort.

    In the US, this ruling could also affect the EPA's broader existing and future regulatory responsibilities - including consumer protections, workplace safety and public health.

    The ruling gives "enormous power" to the courts to target other regulations they don't like, Hajin Kim, assistant professor of law at University of Chicago, tells the BBC.

    This is because judges can say Congress did not explicitly authorise the agency to do that particular thing, she adds.

    The impact on regulatory powers will be significant

    For decades, the Supreme Court has held that judges should generally defer to government agencies when interpreting federal law. On Thursday, the conservative majority continued a recent trend of chipping away at that practice.

    Instead, the court's justices embraced what's called the "major questions doctrine" - which asserts that a federal agency's discretion is limited on big issues that involve broad regulatory actions. If Congress had intended the Environmental Protection Agency to be able to issue sweeping regulations of an entire sector of the US economy, they said, it would have explicitly written that power into the Clean Air Act.

    In January, a similar majority of the court cited the major questions doctrine to strike down an attempt by the Biden administration to use a federal workplace law to mandate vaccinations for employees in large companies.

    It's now clear this court will turn a sceptical eye to agency attempts to cite vague or broad laws to enact any sort of major regulatory changes. That's a significant development, given how difficult it has been for Congress to pass substantive new legislation in recent years. The time when presidents could find unilateral "work-arounds" in existing law may be coming to an end.

    Source : www.bbc.com

    Supreme Court limits EPA’s power to combat climate change

    The decision risks putting the U.S. further off track from President Biden’s goal of running the power grid on clean energy by 2035.

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    Supreme Court limits EPA’s power to combat climate change

    Supreme Court limits EPA’s power to combat climate change The decision risks putting the U.S. further off track from President Biden’s goal of running the power grid on clean energy by 2035

    By Robert Barnes and Dino Grandoni

    Updated June 30, 2022 at 7:19 p.m. EDT|Published June 30, 2022 at 10:12 a.m. EDT

    @[email protected]#=img=#

    A coal-fired power plant in Winfield, W.Va. (Stacy Kranitz for The Washington Post)

    The Supreme Court on Thursday sharply cut back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce the carbon output of existing power plants, a blow to the Biden administration’s plans for combating climate change.

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    The ruling infuriated President Biden and environmentalists, who said it raised formidable obstacles to the United States meeting its climate aims, including the president’s goal of running the U.S. power grid on clean energy by 2035. “Another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards,” Biden said.

    But the Republican-led states that challenged the broad authority the EPA claimed said it was a dutiful examination of the Clean Air Act and a proper acknowledgment that Congress had not given such vast powers to the agency.

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    The vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the court’s majority. And it reinforced an emerging view from its conservatives that too much power is vested in executive branch agencies that act without clear authority from Congress.

    “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’ ” Roberts wrote, referring to a court precedent. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”

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    The decision on June 30 sharply cut back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce the carbon output of power plants. (Video: Libby Casey/The Washington Post)

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    In similar fashion, the court has reined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for enacting an eviction moratorium during the pandemic, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from far-reaching vaccine-or-test requirements. Roberts was joined in the EPA decision by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

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    Gorsuch wrote separately to elaborate: “When Congress seems slow to solve problems, it may be only natural that those in the Executive Branch might seek to take matters into their own hands. But the Constitution does not authorize agencies to use pen-and-phone regulations as substitutes for laws passed by the people’s representatives.”

    Justice Elena Kagan, writing for herself and fellow liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, countered that the majority had empowered the wrong people to pass judgment on an existential dilemma.

    “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy,” Kagan wrote. “I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

    @[email protected]#=img=#

    Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, far right, chats with Justice Elena Kagan during a ceremony at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School in 2018. At far left is Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

    Kagan began her dissent with familiar warnings about the calamity ahead. With higher seas, fiercer wildfires and other consequences of climate change apparent, the world is already in unprecedented territory. Global average temperatures have increased more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the preindustrial era, largely because of pollution from burning fossil fuels.

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    If warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists warn, sea levels could surge, ecosystems collapse, and millions of additional people would be at risk from heat, hunger, disaster and disease.

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    Biden hoped to lead by example to convince other countries to cut emissions and help the world keep warming under the 1.5 degrees threshold. Now such diplomacy has become more difficult for Biden, especially as countries scramble for new sources of oil and gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    The president said he will “continue using lawful executive authority, including the EPA’s legally-upheld authorities,” work with cities and states to pass laws, and “keep pushing for additional Congressional action, so that Americans can fully seize the economic opportunities, cost-saving benefits, and security of a clean energy future.”

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    President Biden speaks during the U.N. climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. (Pool/Reuters)

    The decision rested on what is called the “major questions” doctrine, which says Congress must “speak clearly” when authorizing agency action on significant issues.

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    Source : www.washingtonpost.com

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