Thursday’s Supreme Court decision regarding the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants comes down to two specific issues: Should the Supreme Court take the case at all; and did Congress delegate sufficient authority to the EPA for it to implement a specific regulatory scheme first proposed during the Obama administration? But the case was decided against a backdrop of conflict between the court’s conservative and liberal justices, and some of that conflict spills into this decision.
We’ll tackle each issue below and discuss what this means for US climate policy. But one thing that should be clear is that this is a fairly minimalist decision since it applies only to the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from existing facilities and not to environmental regulations more broadly. While it doesn’t leave the EPA with an obvious next step, it leaves avenues for regulating new power plant construction.
As described in our immediate coverage, the decision is focused on the Clean Power Plan, a set of EPA rules formulated during the Obama years that immediately faced lawsuits that put it on hold, where it remained until the Trump administration rescinded it. With yet another new administration in place, the EPA is now formulating replacement rules. As such, the EPA saw no reason for the Supreme Court to intervene at this point.