Latest Ruling by Court Over Environmental Protection Agency Yields Mixed Reactions

Pollution,  EPA, Supreme CourtYesterday, the Supreme Court reached a decision over the Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) case. The case challenged the EPA’s authority over its consideration of greenhouse gases as pollutants. The EPA under the Clean Air Act, allowed interpretation in such a way that would have greatly increased the reach of the EPA: The agency would have jurisdiction over 86% of carbon emissions coming from stationary sources.

The ruling, while limiting the EPA’s authority to some extend and deriding the EPA for grossly overreaching, effectively kept things the same. “It bears mention that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” Justice Antonin Scalia said while reading the decision.

The case revolved around two permit programs, “PSD” and “Title V.” The EPA argued that it is within the scope of jurisdiction under those programs to regulate typically unregulated pollution sources such as schools and hospitals. However, the EPA also argued that such expansive authority would be overwhelming for the agency and wanted to instate a “tailoring rule” to limit its scope.

Justice Scalia rejected both arguments, writing that this was “a singular situation: an agency laying claim to extravagant statutory power over the national economy while at the same time strenuously asserting that the authority claimed would render the statute ‘unrecognizable to the Congress that designed’ it.”

Instead, the court ruling did not allow “PSD” or “Title V” to require anyone to seek a permit solely due to greenhouse gases. However, EPA regulation would apply if entities qualified for the programs due to other emissions such nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides.

Supporters and detractors alike are claiming the ruling to be a victory. Environmentalist groups such as the Sierra Club praise the ruling: “The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the largest new industrial facilities will need to limit their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Joanne Spalding, the group’s senior managing attorney. On the other side, opponents are pleased over the court’s’ charge that the EPA was severely overreaching. “Today is a victory for the integrity of our regulatory process and rational limits on executive power,” said a statement from National Association of Manufacturers general counsel Linda Kelly.

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