Aug 03, 2022
In General Discussions
Back in April, I wrote a post detailing the background and importance of West Virginia v. EPA, so if you are unfamiliar with this case, go check it out before proceeding. In the last few days of their term, the US Supreme Court rolled out multiple major decisions, including one on West Virginia v. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). In a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA does not have the authority to impose broad regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including one that would have required existing power plants to transition to renewable sources (“generation shifting”). By taking away this powerful tool, the ruling dealt a damaging blow to the EPA and to the fight against climate change. As bad as this may sound, there is a silver lining: it could have been worse. The court did not go as far as some feared and the EPA was not stripped of all of their power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, thus leaving them with options for different approaches. In fact, the EPA still retains most of their authority to regulate emissions, including placing regulations on new power plants. It's the broader implications on federal agencies, however, could prove troubling in the long run. This case could open up the floodgates for more regulatory approaches to be struck down in court with the mention of a key (and controversial) doctrine called the “major questions doctrine”. This states that courts cannot rely on the statutory interpretations of the agencies on issues of significant political and economic importance. For an agency to have authorization, there must be clear text in the statute allowing them to do so. In the case of West Virginia v. EPA, it was argued that since the Clean Air Act does not explicitly grant the EPA the authority to broadly regulate greenhouse gas emissions, that it is not within their authority to impose generation shifting. Why is this so important and how it may cause some trouble down the road? First, it lays the foundations for parties to challenge federal agencies in court. This could, in turn, make agencies think twice about taking the necessary steps to prevent disasters (like climate change) to avoid said court challenges. Second, it is unclear as to how the court will decide on what is of vast importance politically and economically in the future. As for now though, there are still ways for the EPA to effectively operate. See this article by Earthjustice outlines some next steps for the EPA. For a more detailed breakdown of this decision and its implications, listen to Clean Law’s followup podcast. To End on a positive note, keep an eye out for the Inflation Reduction Act. If passed by Congress, the environmental package in this act would invest $369 billion in climate and environmental justice solutions, which would make it the largest environmental investment ever made in the United States.
Apr 01, 2022
In General Discussions
The fight over climate regulations continues in the United States as the Supreme Court case West Virginia v. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held its oral hearing late last month. The case covered the extent of the EPA’s authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants. Brief history lesson on this case. All interpretations are based on section 111(d) of the Clear Air Act (CAA), which states that the EPA has authority to regulate emissions based on the“best system of emission reduction”. In 2015, the Obama administration gave the EPA broad power to regulate emissions across the grid in their Clean Power Plan (CPP), arguing that this power is authorized under CAA. This would have set into place what is called "generation shifting," which would require power plants to transition their power generation from coal and gas to renewable sources of energy over time. However, before the CPP took effect, it was put on hold by the Supreme Court then repealed in 2016 by the Trump administration. It was replaced with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE), narrowing the power of the EPA. In 2021, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated ACE and reopened discussions for the CPP; however, the Biden administration filed to drop the plan. Despite this request, the Supreme Court ruled to review the plan anyways. The main argument set forth by West Virginia (also representing coal and mining corporations) is that the EPA does not have broad authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions from power plants. They state that the the power should not be in the hands of a federal agency. The case has been hotly debated because the regulations in question are not actually in effect. Because of this, the EPA argued that there is no legal basis for this case, and thus it should be dismissed. The outcomes have the potential to severely hinder the EPA’s ability to reduce carbon emissions in the future. It could potentially go as far as preventing Congress from ever delegating powers over emissions reductions to the EPA and even calling into question their other regulatory powers over the environment. The ramifications also extend beyond the EPA and to the integrity of environmental law in the United States. For a more detailed analysis, listen to the recent podcast by Clean Law: https://eelp.law.harvard.edu/2022/03/cleanlaw-jody-freeman-richard-lazarus-west-virginia-v-epa/
Mar 03, 2022
In Member Introductions
I'm the (self-proclaimed) resident environmental policy, law, and politics enthusiast. Chances are if you see a post on CoSphere relating to any of these topics, I was likely involved! On a sunny day you may see me running through Pacific Spirit Park or wandering around downtown Vancouver trying to get my vitamin-D. This fall though, you’ll catch me in Washington D.C. pursuing a master’s degree in policy and administration. Need any political podcast recommendations or just itching for a good debate about the news? I am always eager to chat about the stressful politics and news that many avoid! You can reach out to me on CoSphere, or connect with me on LinkedIn.