June 30, 2022
Decided June 30, 2022
West Virginia, et al. v. EPA, et al., No. 20-1530;
North American Coal Corp. v. EPA, et al., No. 20-1531;
Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC v. EPA, et al., No. 20-1778; and
North Dakota v. EPA, et al., No. 20-1780
Today, the Supreme Court held 6-3 that Congress has not delegated broad authority to EPA to substantially restructure the American energy market.
Background: Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has authority to regulate emissions of pollutants from power plants by mandating the “best system” for reducing emissions. In 2015, EPA issued the Clean Power Plan, which required existing coal and gas power plants either to reduce their production of electricity or to offset their production by subsidizing the generation of natural gas, wind, or solar energy. The Clean Power Plan, however, was stayed in subsequent litigation and never took effect. In 2019, EPA issued a new rule—the Affordable Clean Energy Rule—that repealed and replaced the Clean Power Plan. EPA reasoned that the Clean Power Plan had exceeded its statutory authority.
After the 2019 rule was challenged in court, the D.C. Circuit vacated the rule and held that EPA had erred in concluding that it lacked authority to impose the Clean Power Plan. EPA subsequently planned to promulgate a new rule.
Issue: Whether the Clean Air Act empowers EPA to transform the electric generation sector.
No. Under the Clean Air Act, Congress has not delegated to EPA broad authority to restructure the energy industry by requiring existing power plants to shift to different forms of energy production.
“[O]ur precedent counsels skepticism toward EPA’s claim that [the Clean Air Act] empowers it to devise carbon emission caps based on a generation shifting approach.”
Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Court
What It Means:
The Court’s opinion is available here.
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