Supreme Court apparently clears EPA for power plant CO2 regulation

The U.S Supreme Court on Oct. 15 decided not to take up industry and state petitions that challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, the Sierra Club said in a statement issued the same day.

The high court also left standing EPA’s emission standards for vehicles. The club noted that the court granted review on the narrow question of “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, said: “Today is a victory for all Americans who care about our children’s future. We’re thrilled to see the Supreme Court has left standing the Environmental Protection Agency’s historic Endangerment Finding and vehicles standards. The Court’s action clears the way for EPA to move forward on carbon pollution standards for power plants, the centerpiece of the President’s climate plan. The EPA can now continue its essential efforts to protect our families from dangerous climate pollution. We have confidence that the full suite of EPA’s actions to reduce carbon pollution are legally sound. The President and the EPA have not just the authority, but the responsibility to move forward with bold measures to protect American families from the increasing threat of climate disruption.”

What the court did on Oct. 15 was grant certiorari to six legal cases against various greenhouse gas rules and consolidated them into one case for oral argument. The cases are: Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA; American Chemistry Council, et al. v. EPA, et al.; Energy-Intensive Manufacturers v. EPA, et al.; Southeastern Legal Foundation v. EPA, et al.; Texas, et al. v. EPA, et al.; and Chamber of Commerce, et al. v. EPA, et al.

The petitions for writs of certiorari were granted limited to the narrow question the Sierra Club mentioned about vehicle emissions.

This Supreme Court action is still a big deal because the high court could potentially remove greenhouse gas issues from the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permit process, said industry attorney Jeff Holmstead.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, also said Oct. 15 that this case, while now about vehicle emissions, could still turn out well for power plants. “It’s a very positive development that the Supreme Court will consider whether the EPA can use its greenhouse gas emissions regulations on cars to overregulate power plants,” said Vitter. “The EPA’s regulatory power grab has expanded drastically in recent years, and I’m calling on the agency to halt further greenhouse gas rulemaking pending the Supreme Court’s decision.”

The Heartland Institute, which has been involved in some of these court battles, issued an Oct. 15 statement that quoted a number of officials about the high court’s decision. The institute is a free-market think tank.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to reject an appeal of its 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA is seriously bad news,” said Joseph Bast, president of the institute. “For energy consumers – and that is all of us – it means the court will stand by and do nothing while the Obama Administration wages war on fossil fuels. That war already has raised energy costs unnecessarily and threatens to cause electrical rates to ‘skyrocket’ (in then-candidate Barack Obama’s own words). For citizens concerned about the integrity of the Constitution – and that should be all of us – the court gave a free pass to a rogue agency of government that threatens our most basic economic liberties.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made a colossal mistake by concluding that they won’t review the EPA’s misguided decision that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions endanger public health and the planet. Since CO2 is not a pollutant, the only conceivable reason to regulate emissions would be if they were causing dangerous climate change or ocean ‘acidification.’ But the empirical evidence collected across the world and assessed by thousands of scientists whose research is cited by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate change shows clearly that neither of these fears are even remotely likely,” said Tom Harris, an advisor on climate change to the institute.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.