On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in West Virginia v. The Environmental Protection Agency that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the constitutional authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in order to bring about a transition away from coal energy throughout the country because it was not specifically granted that power by Congress.
“The Supreme Court sharply curtails the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change,” SCOTUSBlog tweeted. “In a 6-3 ruling, the court sides with conservative states and fossil-fuel companies in adopting a narrow reading of the Clean Air Act.”
The Supreme Court sharply curtails the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change. In a 6-3 ruling, the court sides with conservative states and fossil-fuel companies in adopting a narrow reading of the Clean Air Act.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 30, 2022
As noted by SCOTUSblog, the central question was whether or not Congress granted “the Environmental Protection Agency in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act the authority to devise emissions caps based on the generation shifting approach the agency took in the Clean Power Plan.” The court ruled Congress did not grant that authority.
SCOTUSblog also explained that the “dispute began in 2015 with the Obama administration’s adoption of the Clean Power Plan, a rule that sought to combat climate change by reducing carbon pollution from power plants. The plan never went into effect, however: Several states and private plaintiffs challenged it in federal court, and a divided Supreme Court put it on hold in February 2016.”
Once President Donald Trump came into power, his administration repealed the Clean Power Plan and instituted a different set of rules known as the “ACE Rule.”
In January 2021, “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, vacated the ACE Rule, and sent the issue back to the EPA for more proceedings. The Supreme Court then granted a request by Republican-led states and coal companies to review that ruling; meanwhile, the Biden administration EPA has indicated that it will not reinstate the Clean Power Plan and is instead drafting its own rules on greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants,” according to SCOTUSblog.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority decision and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch. Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,'” Roberts concluded. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d). A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is reversed, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
Daren Bakst, a Heritage Foundation senior research fellow focusing on environmental policy and regulation, told The Daily Wire that if the EPA wanted the authority to enact the kind of regulation found in the Clean Power Plan, then the answer is “really simple.”
“Congress would need to enact a law that gives the EPA the necessary statutory authority to impose a Clean Power Plan-like scheme,” Bakst explained. “That’s it.”
“And this is the heart of the entire issue,” he added. “Congress, not the EPA, has the lawmaking power under the United States Constitution. The EPA forgot this. In fact, it too often forgets that it is an agency of bureaucrats charged with implementing laws, not elected officials charged with creating laws.”
Bakst clarified that Supreme Court’s decision rested on what is known as “the Major Questions Doctrine.” As described by one law firm, “The concept behind the Major Questions Doctrine is that the Court should not assume that Congress delegated important policy decisions to government agencies unless it has done so explicitly.”
“The Court looked to the Clean Air Act and examined the actions the EPA was trying to take,” Bakst explained. “The agency wanted to in effect regulate the entire electricity grid of this nation and restructure the energy market through the Clean Air Act. There’s nothing in the Clean Air Act that authorizes such action. But the key point is that the Court applied the major questions doctrine, which means that it deemed the agencies actions to be of such importance and magnitude that it would need to have clear-cut statutory authority for taking such action.”
Bakst said that in this case, the EPA “wasn’t acting pursuant to clear delegation” from Congress.
In reaction to the news, Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt tweeted, “BIG VICTORY! Today, SCOTUS ruled in our favor in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, a critically important case that we joined West Virginia in filing that pushes back on the Biden EPA’s job-killing regulations.”
“We joined WV to fight the EPA’s overreach & challenged the agency’s overly-broad interpretation allowing them to regulate almost any part of the economy, the consequences would lead to higher utility bills, job loss and overall increased energy prices. This is a huge win for MO!” he added.
We joined WV to fight the EPA’s overreach & challenged the agency’s overly-broad interpretation allowing them to regulate almost any part of the economy, the consequences would lead to higher utility bills, job loss and overall increased energy prices. This is a huge win for MO!
— Attorney General Eric Schmitt (@AGEricSchmitt) June 30, 2022
Alfredo Ortiz, Job Creators Network President and CEO, also praised the decision.
“This is a big victory for small businesses and a big defeat for the Biden administration and the regulatory state,” Ortiz said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire. “Whether it’s greenhouse gas emissions, Covid lockdowns, vaccine mandates, or scores of other issues, the Biden administration keeps claiming authority it does not possess, as the Supreme Court ruled today.”
“This is an important rollback of Biden’s Big Government policies that will give some certainty for America’s small business community, which can in turn, improve the climate for job growth.,” Ortiz added. “Whether the administration will learn from their mistake, however, remains to be seen. On key issues like fighting inflation and the supply chain crisis, the Supreme Court will not be coming to the rescue. We need pro-growth policies from the President and Congress including spending cuts and making the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent. We’re still about one million jobs short of where we were pre -Covid so the time to act is now.”
This story includes updated information; please check back for updates.