U.S Supreme court on Clean Air Act West Virginia v. the US Environmental Protection Agency

The Supreme Court has made it more challenging for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases and fight climate change, as justices ruled in favour of Republican-led states and coal companies that asked the court to limit how much the EPA can control emissions from power plants.

On June 30th 2022 , the Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot put state-level caps on carbon emissions under the 1970 Clean Air Act. Such authority would, in effect, steer states away from coal and toward other types of power sources that emit less carbon. The Court said that, instead, the authority to decide how power is created in the U.S. must come from Congress. The court reversed and remanded the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, holding that Congress must provide clear direction to the EPA—rather than a broad delegation of power—for the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The issue: The case concerned whether the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to delegate broad regulatory power to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) related to greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to learn more about the case's background.

The questions presented: In 42 U.S.C. § 7411(d), an ancillary provision of the Clean Air Act, did Congress constitutionally authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to issue significant rules—including those capable of reshaping the nation’s electricity grids and unilaterally decarbonizing virtually any sector of the economy—without any limits on what the agency can require so long as it considers cost, non-air impacts, and energy requirements?

The outcome: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the major questions doctrine requires Congress to provide clear direction in its delegation of authority to the EPA in order for the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It reversed the D.C. Circuit's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings

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