Supreme Court Weighs in on EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas

Photo of the US Supreme Court by Mark FischerThis month the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with two primary holdings: 

  1. EPA’s attempt in the Tailoring Rule to regulate stationary sources under the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) permitting program solely on the basis of their greenhouse gas emissions is not permissible under the Clean Air Act.
  2. EPA may regulate the greenhouse gas emissions from those stationary sources that are already subject to PSD regulation for conventional pollutants. The Court recognized that its decision will have a limited impact on overall U.S. carbon emissions from stationary sources, noting that the percentage of carbon emissions regulated by the EPA is expected to drop from 86 percent to 83 percent under the decision.

The narrow decision of the Court does not directly impact the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule from EPA, which looks to set aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction standards for states. However, the Court’s language and rationale in this decision may provide a glimpse the current thinking concerning the recently released rule; "EPA’s interpretation is also unreasonable because it would bring about an enormous and transformative expansion in EPA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization."

Notably, the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule has already come under fire from many sectors as an expansion of EPA’s regulatory authority without express direction from congress to do so.

While EPA and the parties to the case sort out what to do with the Court’s decision and how it may impact other ongoing work at the EPA, NASF will continue working with the administration, Congress, and our partners in the forestry community to support policy that recognizes biomass as a low-carbon renewable energy solution.

For more information, contact Brent Keith.

Photo by Mark Fischer

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