As the Supreme Court begins to wrap up its session, the Biden administration has garnered some judicial wins, but primarily losses. This time the Biden administration’s climate change agenda was dealt a significant blow in a ruling on Thursday (June 30).
In its 6-3 ruling, the Court determined the Environmental Protection Agency could not pass sweeping regulations that could shake up entire industries without first receiving additional Congressional approval.
Writing the opinion for the majority, Justice John Robert’s noted that while “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,'” Congress should not have given the “EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d).”
Roberts continued, writing, “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
This case started in 2015 under the Obama administration.
At that time, the Obama administration instituted the Clean Power Plan, that detailed how it would reduce carbon emissions at power plants by shifting from coal to natural gas, and finally to solar and wind power.
The following year, 2016, the plan was placed on hold by the Supreme Court but was later repealed by the Trump administration and replaced by the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, a far less extreme method of moving toward similar objectives.
When Biden took office, Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy rule became subject to litigation, leading the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the Trump-era rule and rescind the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
Following the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling, however, the Biden EPA said it wouldn’t be reinstating the Clean Power Plan but developing its own plan.
Yet the question of how much power the EPA wields has been the subject of scrutiny.
The EPA, which gets its authority based on Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, has seen arguments from both sides.
The Act enables the EPA to set the “standards of performance” for existing sources of air pollution, provided it considers cost, energy requirements, and non-health and environmental impacts.
The Trump administration, however, argued that this meant the EPA could only determine measures to implement within physical power plants and not ones that would affect the entire industry, citing the major questions in its repeal.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court took a similar stance, saying that the Biden EPA’s stance, in which it argued the major questions doctrine did not apply, “was not only unprecedented; it also effected a ‘fundamental revision of the statute[.]'”