A federal court has turned down the EPA’s efforts to lessen carbon emission regulations for coal plants. The move has been celebrated and welcomed by opponents of the Trump administration’s actions to weaken environmental protection laws. Many critics of the regulations say that the rollback would give coal plants too much power in deciding their carbon control actions or lack thereof.
The ruling now reduces the list of actions that the newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has to take in his first days in office. Biden is expected to get things going right from day one by reversing some of the harmful environmental policies put in place by the Trump administration.
The 2019 regulation would have required individual states to make coal-fired plants more efficient in the long run. However, the regulation left a wide margin within which states could operate in regards to reducing emissions, as long as they can show some effort toward making coal plants efficient.
EPA officials had earlier said that the Clean Air Act imposes major limits on the freedom to go beyond the changes that can be made at specific power plants. Further, one EPA official said that the agency is not an energy regulatory authority.
While the EPA might be on the defensive, the judge ruled that the agency is incorrectly reading the statute. The ruling said that the statute section “does not, as the EPA claims, constrain the Agency to identifying a best system of emission reduction consisting only of controls ‘that can be applied at and to a stationary source.'”
The ruling indicates that the EPA’s rollback ignores some elements that power plants might use to achieve emissions reduction.
Following the ruling, environmental lawyers and other groups expect Biden’s administration to take a broad approach to the regulation of power plants. However, some lawyers have cautioned that if the administration gets too ambitious with the regulations, it may have to face the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
Image via Benita Welter