(The Hill) – The Supreme Court on Thursday curbed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ability to regulate climate change, setting limits on how the agency can deal with power plants.
In a 6-3 ruling, the justices determined that Congress did not authorize the EPA to induce a shift toward cleaner energy sources using the approach that an Obama-era regulation sought to.
“Congress did not grant EPA…the authority to devise emissions caps based on the generation shifting approach the Agency took in the Clean Power Plan,” the majority wrote.
The ruling was spurred by an appeal to a decision last year that struck down a Trump-era power plant rule.
North Dakota was among the states and coal mining operations that challenged the EPA’s massive expansion of authority.
In appealing that decision, West Virginia asked the court to consider whether the EPA has the authority to try to push the entire system away from coal and reshape the country’s electric grid.
The Obama administration tried to regulate power plants on a system-wide basis through a combination of both improvements to existing coal plants and a shift away from it toward renewables and natural gas.
But, in 2016, the Supreme Court put a temporary halt on that regulation, blocking it from taking effect. it was eventually replaced by a Trump-era rule that only included efficiency improvements for coal plants and no shifts to other energy sources.
The Obama rule was considered to be significantly better at mitigating climate change than the Trump rule, with it expected to cut 415 million short tons of carbon dioxide by 2030 compared to its successor’s 11 million short tons.
And legal experts recently told The Hill that preventing the agency from using certain climate tools could result in regulations that allow more planet-warming emissions overall.
The Biden administration is preparing its own power plant regulations and EPA Administrator Michael Regan has said previously that it was waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision before moving forward.
“We’re going to be ready to go as soon as the Supreme Court rules,” Regan told Congress in April.
In North Dakota, Attorney General Drew Wrigley said of the court’s decision, “North Dakota supports practical, affordable and science-based regulations based on the Federal-State partnership established by Congress. The EPA can’t just do whatever it wants and use climate change as an excuse to take the law into its own hands.”