August 16, 2022

West Virginia v. What Does EPA Mean for Climate Action?

Supreme Court decision on this matter West Virginia v. EPA It limited the EPA’s ability to reduce climate pollution from power plants. However, an important mandate remains.

Here’s what’s next after climate action West Virginia v. EPA.

What exactly did the Supreme Court say?

This Supreme Court and its newly formed conservative majority closed its explosive first term by limiting the EPA’s power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate crisis. Inside 6-3 decisionThe Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act does not authorize the EPA to set emission limits for existing power plants based on the energy sector’s ability to switch from polluted fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy sources. The process known as “generation change” is the best emissions reduction system and could be a powerful tool to help our country meet its climate goals.

As the electricity sector is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, this decision is a blow to EPA’s efforts to regulate climate pollution at power plants and restricts the tools they can use to address this problem. However, the Court immortality Completely remove the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide or other power plant pollutants—in fact, EPA can and should enact regulations to do just that.

How did the court make this decision fifty years after the Clean Air Act became law? Conservative judges, so-called “the doctrine of the main questions” (As Judge Kagan states in his book opposition, is not a term previously used by the Court). According to this doctrine, the conservative majority contends that any issue with major economic or political consequences requires explicit congressional authority in law. Still, the standard for when this framework will be implemented remains unclear. Indeed, when Justice Kavanaugh was at the DC Circuit, it was a “understand when you seeScale. Conservative Judges have given themselves a powerful deregulation tool to advance a smaller government ideology, rather than a clear aid in interpreting the law. With a stroke of the pen and a statement of “important questions”, they can determine how much regulation is too much regulation from the tribune. Removing OSHA’s vaccine mandate West Virginia v. EPA They only scratch the surface of how this dangerous doctrine may limit the ability of federal agencies to act on some of the most pressing problems facing our country.

What is the impact on the EPA’s jurisdiction?

this West Virginia The decision represents a setback in the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants. However, despite the decision, the EPA still has substantial authority to write future rules. While standards based on production replacement are no longer allowed, the Clean Air Act allows and requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from the energy sector. EPA may set standards for existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, unless the new “best emissions reduction system” requires a transition of production to clean energy.

Additionally, although the Supreme Court limited the means EPA could use to address this issue under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, many other parts of the Clean Air Act were not addressed in the ruling and remained completely intact. The EPA still retains its ability to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. new power plants covered by section 111(b). The agency can also regulate carbon pollution from cars and methane emissions from oil and gas wells. Not all public health guidelines on conventional air pollutants were affected by this decision, either. The EPA has enough mandate to tackle air pollution and climate change.

while West Virginia v. EPA The decision alone does not limit the EPA’s ability to set rules in these areas, it sets a disturbing precedent. By applying the important questions doctrine to EPA power plant rules, the Supreme Court pointed to an administrative action skepticism that it could be applied to a future EPA rule that comes before the Court. this West Virginia The decision left it very unclear as to which rules would be subject to the new doctrine rather than the normal legal interpretation. This ambiguity is probably intentional and allows the Court to apply important questions only when deregulation has achieved its objectives.

While the main questions doctrine poses a risk to future regulation, the Supreme Court only receives 60 cases each year, and only a small minority of those cases are administrative law or EPA related. The Environmental Protection Agency needs to continue to tackle climate change assertively, recognizing that many of its new rules will likely stick. The only way is West Virginia If the decision seriously hinders EPA’s efforts, the agency breaks its own wings. By acting assertively across a wide range of standards, EPA maximizes the chances of making progress on pollution.

Next steps for EPA on power plant pollution

Now the Supreme Court has announced its decision. West Virginia v. EPAThe EPA must act quickly to finalize a new package of rules based on its remaining broad mandate. There is 10 rules especially that the EPA needs to tackle energy sector pollution.

The two most obvious rules the EPA must follow are direct regulation of greenhouse gases from existing power plants and new power plants. EPA can and should finalize a new 111(d) rule that establishes a new “best emissions reduction system.” existing power plants. While the EPA-determined system cannot undertake generation-shifting, states allow a great deal of flexibility in implementation and can potentially use generation-switching as a strategy to achieve EPA’s pollution reduction goals if they wish.

The EPA should also finalize a rule that addresses carbon pollution. new power plants, under section 111(b). This rule will apply to more than 200 new utilities-owned gas plants. suggested around the country. Only by addressing carbon pollution from existing and new power plants can the EPA continue on its way to fulfilling President Biden’s climate promises. The White House said drafts of both of these rules will be published in the coming days. March 2023—but They must move even faster.

In addition to these two rules that explicitly target greenhouse gas pollution, EPA should also tighten up eight regulations on conventional pollutants. These rules will significantly improve air and water pollution while providing significant benefits for the climate. These public health standards include:

  • More strong Mercury and Air Poisons Standard (MATS) Rule limiting mercury, arsenic and other toxic compounds from coal power plants.
  • A stronger National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for small particulate matter (also called soot or PM2.5) causes lung disease and asthma.
  • a stronger national standard (NAAQS) for ozonefog causes lung disease and overheating.
  • a new good neighbor Rule that reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and fumes across state lines.
  • Strong coal ash Rule establishing national safety regulations for the disposal of toxic coal ash from coal-fired power plants.
  • A Regional Haze rule requiring states and federal government to cooperate to increase visibility in national parks and wilderness areas
  • Strong Startup, Shutdown and Fault The rule that closes the gaps that allows power plants to emit more pollution during start-up, shutdown and faults.
  • Waste Restriction Guidelines limiting water pollution from power plants to surface waters and wastewater treatment plants

Together, these ten rules will work to reduce carbon pollution that causes climate change and traditional air and water pollution that harms public health and is carried by disproportionately disadvantaged communities and people of color. air pollution causes 100,000 premature deaths every year in the USA. EPA must act urgently to protect public health and the climate by finalizing these 10 rules.

To learn more about each of these rules and how you can join our campaign to enforce them, visit:

Other important avenues: Congress and states

The climate crisis doesn’t care about new legal doctrines and politics. It’s here now, and we’re already experiencing the consequences. Despite this decision, the federal government still has the tools at its disposal to address this problem. We have said from the beginning that tackling a challenge of this magnitude requires a whole government approach.

This resolution also makes it all the more important for Congress to do its job, pass legislation and pass a budget reconciliation package that includes strong investments in climate, jobs and justice. These investments will help accelerate our transition to clean energy and direct resources to communities that are already suffering the worst impacts, ensuring that our response to climate change is justified.

Tell Congress right now: Invest in climate and environmental justice.

States and local governments are critical in addressing climate change, especially in light of climate change. West Virginia v. EPA decision. While the decision affects the EPA, it does nothing to hinder state and local authority. States and local governments have the ability to enforce local zoning standards that take climate resilience into account, or ban new buildings from gas connections while enacting laws that set their own climate targets to protect their future. They are already doing this to great success. Same day as decision West Virginia v. EPAThe state of New York has denied a permit for a major crypto mining facility in Upstate New York based on energy and climate impacts operating inconsistently with climate targets set by New York’s state law.

Last week, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee also signed into law a bill committing Rhode Island to get 100% clean energy by 2033. 21 states In addition to DC and Puerto Rico, they have set 100% clean energy targets through the state legislature or the governor’s office. Coast to coast, state and local governments are taking action in the absence of federal leadership and will continue to be critical forces for climate action in the future.

Despite the backlash from the Supreme Court, we all need to keep pushing the administration, Congress and states to move forward, faster. This is not the time to take a step back.

Give your voice. Tell Congress to invest in climate action through the budget memorandum.

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