Supreme Court Curbs EPA Power, Other Federal Agencies On Notice
The Supreme Court on Thursday curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s powers to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, in a decision that could limit the authority of government agencies to address major policy questions without congressional approval. [bold, links added]
The decision was in line with several Supreme Court decisions in recent years that reined in federal agencies by striking down regulations on the grounds that agencies had usurped power from Congress and the judicial branch.
West Virginia led a coalition of Republican-leaning states and coal producers that asked the Supreme Court to weigh in and clarify the limits of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority, raising broader questions about how far the regulatory authority of federal agencies extends.
The coalition said powerful and wide-reaching policies should come from Congress, not agency-level regulators.
The Obama-era EPA rules were “illustrative of an alarming trend whereby presidents turn to implied authority, typically in long-extant statutes, to achieve what Congress fails to do,” the libertarian Cato Institute said in a legal brief.
The case before the high court was unusual because it involved regulations put forth by the Obama administration that never went into effect and were replaced in 2019 under the Trump administration.
At issue was the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era set of rules devised by the EPA that sought to mandate a national shift away from coal to cleaner sources of power, including natural gas, wind, and solar.
For half a century, the Clean Air Act has directed the EPA to regulate stationary sources of air pollution that endanger “public health or welfare.”
The Obama-era Clean Power Plan extended that regulatory reach beyond the physical premises of a power plant to allow off-site methods to mitigate pollution.
The Supreme Court in 2016 halted the Clean Power Plan from taking effect, but the justices never directly addressed whether the rule was unlawful.
The Trump administration in 2019 overturned the plan, replacing it with industry-friendly rules allowing older power plants to continue operating.
In January 2021, at the end of Mr. Trump’s presidency, a federal appeals court in the District of Columbia struck down his administration’s replacement rule, providing the Biden administration with a clean slate to work from in devising its own carbon-emissions rules.
The EPA powers at issue are central to Mr. Biden’s climate agenda. With fragile majorities in the Senate and House, Democrats have limited ability to advance their platform through new legislation.
Like his recent predecessors, Mr. Biden is poised to govern through agencies such as the EPA, relying on his inherent constitutional authority and the statutory powers provided by existing legislation.
Read more at The WSJ
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