High court backs EPA on emissions

Justices denied states and environmentalists the right to sue power plants in federal courts over their emissions.

06-20-2011 // ROBIN BRAVENDER

This excerpt is from Politico

The Supreme Court really, really believes the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

For the second time in four years, the high court said the EPA has the ability to use the Clean Air Act to control global-warming-causing emissions like carbon dioxide. It’s a big win for the Obama administration and puts the spotlight back on congressional Republicans who have been fighting EPA regulations this year.

In an 8-0 decision Monday, justices denied states and environmentalists the right to sue power plants in federal courts over their emissions, explicitly saying that regulating greenhouse gases is the EPA’s job.

The decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut marked the high court’s second major global warming decision following its 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA that gave the agency the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Although environmentalists lost the right to sue power plants directly in federal courts, they hailed the reiteration of the EPA’s authority as evidence that Congress should get off the agency’s back. It also fueled calls from the right for Congress to step in and block what they claim are overreaching policies from the Obama administration.

The EPA’s foes in Congress have pledged to try to block climate rules at every turn, and they’re eyeing upcoming must-pass legislation like the debt ceiling appropriations bills as options to get riders to block the EPA past the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House.

The agency started regulating some of the largest industrial sources in January and is planning to finalize additional rules for power plants in May 2012 and for refineries in November 2012.

Writing for the 8-0 majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that “Massachusetts made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the [Clean Air] Act. And we think it equally plain that the act ‘speaks directly’ to emissions of carbon dioxide from the defendants’ plants.”

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said the court “has now reaffirmed that the EPA has the authority under the law to regulate emissions and reaffirmed the underlying science behind that authority.”

Joe Mendelson, director of global warming policy at the National Wildlife Federation, said the decision “not only recognizes that Congress gave [the] EPA the Clean Air Act to tackle climate [change], it’s also an opinion that recognizes [the] EPA’s science on endangerment.”

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