The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that only Congress, not the Environmental Protection Agency, has the authority to broadly regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
“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,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
However, a “decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” he said.
The case dealt with an Obama-era EPA regulation called the Clean Power Plan that sought to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030. The EPA pointed to Section 111 of the Clean Air Act as the provision that granted it the authority to write this rule.
“Congress did not grant EPA 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,” Roberts said in the 6-3 ruling.
Conservatives hailed the ruling as a victory for consumers over the federal bureaucracy.
“Today, the Supreme Court has taken a major step to restore representative government and require legislators, not bureaucrats, to make the major policy decisions affecting the lives of Americans. The importance of this decision cannot be overstated,” Derrick Morgan, executive vice president of The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement.
He said the ruling “has put to rest a serious threat to reliable, affordable electricity for Americans.”
“The court’s decision comes at a time when the Biden administration is doing everything it can to force an overhaul of the energy sector and the economy through a radical regulatory agenda — devastating the finances of millions of Americans in the process,” he added.
Isaac Orr, a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, noted that electricity prices are “rising dramatically” as the electric grid faces “the possibility of blackouts.”
“EPA regulations governing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants would only make these problems worse,” he said. “This ruling was crucial to reigning in the overreach of the administrative state.”
State Democrats, however, accused the Supreme Court of “siding with polluters and climate deniers.”
The right-wing Trump Supreme Court issued a decision limiting EPA’s ability to regulate emissions contributing to the climate crisis. SCOTUS siding with polluters & climate deniers will result in an acceleration of climate change and will negatively impact the health of millions. https://t.co/FjgzayUv9v
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) June 30, 2022
“This ruling not only flies in the face of the letter of the law, but of basic morality. It makes it nearly impossible for us to stave off the worst of the climate crisis, and will fall hardest on the most vulnerable communities. Like the decision overturning Roe, the reasoning risks eliminating other precedents, including dozens of regulations that keep our water safe, protect us from heat, and toxic chemicals,” Rep. Ilhan Omar said in a statement.
She called the ruling “the latest signpost in the frightening backsliding of U.S. democracy.”
“From the January 6th insurrection to stolen seats on the court, it has become increasingly clear that our country is in the midst of a democratic crisis, with the Supreme Court at the heart of it,” she added.
Sen. Tina Smith said the Supreme Court “blocked necessary action to reduce power plant emissions.”
“This activist court expanded gun rights, revoked reproductive rights, and now they’re siding with large polluters and conservative special interests,” she said. “The climate crisis is real. We must take bold action now.”
SCOTUS just blocked necessary action to reduce power plant emissions.
This activist court expanded gun rights, revoked reproductive rights, and now they're siding with large polluters and conservative special interests.
The climate crisis is real. We must take bold action now.
— Senator Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) June 30, 2022
I'm outraged that the Supreme Court just limited the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.
We need to be taking decisive action to address the climate crisis, not taking steps backwards.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) June 30, 2022