The Supreme Court will soon rule on an environmental case that could impact President Joe Biden’s climate plan. The court has already heard arguments on a case pitting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against 19 (mostly Republican) states. The states want the court to decide whether the EPA has authority to limit emissions from power plants based on the Clean Air Act.

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The laws in question were crafted by the EPA in 2015, during President Barack Obama’s tenure. The EPA created the Clean Power Plan, which intended to cut emissions from the power sector to at least 30% below the 2005 levels by 2030. Matters changed when President Donald Trump took office and sought to overturn the rules. By the time Trump left office, an appeals court had rejected his efforts to water down the rules.

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Clean Air Act guidelines require the EPA to consider the best available technology and practices to craft regulations to curb air pollution. While the agency hasn’t heavily enforced the laws so far, 19 highly polluting U.S. states are seeking legal intervention.

It is unclear how the Supreme Court ruling will turn out, but the line of questioning during the hearing has made many believe it will favor the states. The bench is conservative-leaning with a 6-3 majority.

On Monday, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued in defense of the EPA, saying the case should be rejected. Prelogar argued that there are no regulations in place, and thus there was no harm caused to the states.

If the court ruling favors the states, the Biden administration may struggle to implement climate reforms. Upon taking office, Biden had the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement and pledged to transition the country from fossil fuel-based energy to clean energy. However, these steps can only succeed with proper clearance.

Biden’s climate commitments may be challenged if the states win the Supreme Court case. Collectively, the states involved in the case made up 44% of U.S. emissions in 2018. These emissions have only decreased by an average of 7% since 2000.


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