Supreme Court considers limiting EPA's ability to fight climate change

WASHINGTON — Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Monday questioned the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’...


WASHINGTON — Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Monday questioned the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, suggesting the court could strike a blow hard on the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change.

The questioning during the two-hour argument was mostly technical, and several conservative judges did not bow their hands. But those who did seemed skeptical that Congress had wanted to give the agency what they said was broad power to set national economic policy.

There seemed to be little appetite for an argument advanced by the Biden administration and environmental groups: that the four cases before the justices, including West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 20-1530, were not ripe for decision because there are no regulations in place. They said the court should wait to answer concrete questions rather than rule on hypothetical questions.

Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar said the administration is working on a new settlement, which the courts could consider after it is released.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Stephen G. Breyer have indicated they believe the Supreme Court need not wait.

Much of the argument centered on whether the Clean Air Act allowed the agency to enact sweeping regulations in the electricity sector and, more broadly, on the clarity with which Congress should authorize executive agencies to deal with major political and economic issues.

Last year, the last full day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, a federal appeals court in Washington hit his administration’s plan to ease restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The Trump administration said the Clean Air Act unambiguously limits the measures the agency can use to those “that can be put into service in a building, structure, facility, or facility.”

A three-judge split panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Trump administration’s plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, was based on a “fundamental misinterpretation” of the relevant law, prompted by a “tortured series of misreadings”.

“The EPA has broad discretion in carrying out its mandate,” the decision concluded. “But he cannot shirk his responsibility by dreaming up new limitations that the plain language of the law does not clearly require.”

The panel did not reinstate a 2015 Obama-era settlement, the Clean Power Plan, that would have forced utilities away from coal and towards renewable energy to reduce emissions. But he rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to replace that rule with what critics called toothless.

The appeals court ruling also paved the way for the Biden administration to impose tougher restrictions.

The Obama-era plan aimed to reduce electricity sector emissions by 32% by 2030 from 2005 levels. carbon emissions from power plants by phasing out coal and increasing renewable energy production.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan never came into effect. It was blocked in 2016 by the Supreme Court, which effectively ruled that states did not have to comply until a flood of lawsuits from conservative states and the coal industry were resolved. The ruling, followed by changes to the Supreme Court’s makeup that shifted it to the right, made environmental groups wary of what the court might do in climate change cases.

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of experts convened by the United Nations, released the most comprehensive study to date on the threats posed by global warming homes, human health, livelihoods and natural ecosystems around the world. The report, endorsed by 195 governments, found that the dangers of climate change are greater and unfolding faster than before and that humanity could find it difficult to adapt to the consequences unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. greenhouse effect are rapidly reduced over the next few decades.

“Any further delay in anticipated concerted global action,” the report says, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

Brad Plume contributed reports

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Newsrust - US Top News: Supreme Court considers limiting EPA's ability to fight climate change
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