In a 6-3 ruling in the West Virginia v. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Court decided that Congress will be the only government entity that can create regulations to limit carbon emissions from existing coal- and gas-powered plants. This impacts the federal government’s ability to set standards for pollutants like carbon dioxide from power plants under the Clean Air Act, which was designed to combat a variety of air pollution problems.
“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,'” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion for the court. However, he continued that “a decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan stated that the decision takes away the EPA’s power to address today’s “most pressing” environmental challenges.
Richard Revesz, an environmental expert at the New York University School of Law, told the Associated Press that the decision is “a significant setback for environmental protection and public health safeguards.” He highlights that, although the EPA’s power has been limited, it still has the ability to combat greenhouse gases from the power sector.
The Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court will provide a proposal addressing how to regulate power plant emissions by the end of the year.