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EPA gets mixed ruling in Greenhouse Gases case

June 23, 2014 by NCC Staff


The Supreme Court said on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t issue greenhouse gas permits for certain industries, but it left intact other tools the EPA can use to regulate pollutants.

A power plant
A power plant

A divided Supreme Court, voting on ideological lines, said in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency that the EPA exceeded its powers by changing emissions thresholds for greenhouse gases in the Clean Air Act for stationary sources such as power plants. In a majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said these moves can only be taken by Congress.

The case consolidated group of six lawsuits known collectively as the “Greenhouse Gas Cases.”

The ruling partially reversed a lower court ruling, but the Court also said the EPA can still regulate industries already required to get permits for other forms of emissions, with greenhouse gases added to the emissions list.

In his opinion, Scalia said the EPA would be able to regulate sources responsible for most of the greenhouse gases in the United States.

“E.P.A. is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” Scalia said from the bench. “It sought to regulate sources it said were responsible for 86 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources nationwide. Under our holdings, E.P.A. will be able to regulate sources responsible for 83 percent of those emissions.”

All nine justices agreed that EPA can mandate greenhouse gas permits to industries already required to get other pollution permits.

The EPA had argued that Clean Air Act was designed to address all air pollutants, including greenhouse gases.

In April 2014, the Supreme Court agreed with the Obama administration that 28 states in the Midwest and South had to reduce ozone and fine particle emissions that flowed into other states, under the EPA’s regulation powers.

Monday’s decision doesn’t affect other EPA proposals to set national standards for new and existing power plants. Those are expected to be the subject of extensive legal actions.

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