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The impact of the Supreme Court's environmental ruling

Emissions billow out of a stack at the coal-fired Morgantown Generating Station in Newburg, Maryland.
Emissions billow out of a stack at the coal-fired Morgantown Generating Station in Newburg, Maryland.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court found the Environmental Protection Agencydoes nothave the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

In the majority opinion issued last week by Chief Justice John Roberts, he argued “it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority” to make drastic changes to the nation’s power grid.

In a written response, EPA administrator Michael S. Regan argued, “As a public health agency, EPA’s number one responsibility is to protect people’s health, especially those who are on the front lines of environmental pollution.” 

The ruling was a repudiation of the 2015 Clean Power Plan proposed by the Obama administration. 

The six Conservative members of the court followed a legal doctrine known as the “major questions doctrine,” which requires federal agencies to get explicit authorization from Congress to decide on issues of “major economic and political significance.” 

Jody Freeman is the director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program.

“Every major regulation is important enough to some industry and we’ll have a major impact on some sector. There will always be complaints that it’s too big of a deal to let a federal agency [regulate] it unless we have a fresh law from Congress,” she told 1A Producer Chris Remington.

Freeman argued it’s likely Republican-led state attorneys general and industry groups will target other federal agencies, including the SEC’s proposed rule that companies disclose their emission standards to the public.    

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Chris Remington