Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging the Scope of EPA Authority to Combat Global Warming

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Monday in a case that could limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate climate change.  At issue in the case is the extent to which the agency can pursue climate regulations that have broad impacts on areas such as the power sector.

Two coal companies, as well as a group of states led by West Virginia and North Dakota, are challenging a lower court ruling that tossed a Trump-era rule governing power plants.

That Trump rule loosened regulations surrounding climate change when compared to the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP), which sought to reduce releases of greenhouse gases through improved efficiency measures, as well as the adoption of more natural gas and renewable energy, as opposed to coal.

The Supreme Court stayed that plan, preventing it from taking effect, in 2016. And the Trump administration replaced it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which still sought efficiency improvements, but excluded the switch to cleaner fuels.

But as the Biden administration is working on its own regulations for power plants, the states and coal companies are seeking to limit its authority to do so.

They have argued that a key provision in the Clean Air Act only allows the EPA to regulate the pollution sources themselves, rather than setting broader standards that could change the makeup of the country’s power supply.

“They have the ability to regulate a source, and so for instance that could be the coal fired power plant, and that could be for heat efficiencies or items within the power plant,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told The Hill in an interview. But, he added, they can’t “go so far afield” and create a system that could “impact consumer demand or force rewrites of the power grid.”