Several U.S. Supreme Court justices just confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sufficient power to regulate carbon emissions. A case brought by 13 states and several power companies claimed that the EPA was going too far when it evoked air quality rules to ease emissions. Fortunately, the majority of the justices sided with the EPA and were not willing to re-open a 2007 Massachusetts case that upheld the EPA’s broad power to enforce emissions.

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While hearing the case, called Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency, a majority of the justices, including Justice Kennedy, who has been a dissenter on the EPA’s broad powers in the past, seemed to favor allowing the EPA to operate as it is. “Chief Justice Roberts made that clear early on, saying that even though he was a dissenter in 2007, the court isn’t going to reconsider Massachusetts, or the follow-on decision in American Electric Power v Connecticut, which establish EPA’s authority to set Clean Air Act standards for both vehicles and factories that emit carbon pollution that drives dangerous climate change,” said David Doniger, the Climate and Clean Air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The court also seemed unwilling to consider challenges to the well-documented science that links carbon emissions and climate change. According to Doniger, “Justice Antonin Scalia asked sarcastically if sea level rise was occurring anywhere but in Massachusetts, but no one seriously challenged EPA on scientific issues this time.” 

Ultimately the court’s decision probably won’t be known for a few months, but based on arguments, the court is unlikely to challenge the EPA’s powers, which are the basis for President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. It’s an important win, because air pollution doesn’t respect borders, and can’t be addressed effectively on the state level alone.

Via The Guardian

Images from Wladamir Labeikovsky and Mike Disharoon