Supreme Court Ruling Restricts EPA Authority To Dictate Carbon Emissions Reductions


The Republican-controlled Supreme Court dealt a death blow to the EPA regulatory powers over carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

With the Supreme Court being overwhelmingly controlled 6-3 by the Republicans, the decisions to curtail the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency do not portend well for other regulatory agencies.

The judges voted along party lines and effectively said that every big change is presumed invalid till it is specifically authorized by Congress. In the present case, the court was addressing EPA’s authority to address climate change.

Environmental experts say that the Supreme Court has effectively crippled the EPA as Congress is effectively dysfunctional at this moment and nothing can be got out of it at this juncture. Richard Lazarus, a professor at Harvard University and an environmental law expert said that the ruling has arrived at a critical time as the world is running short on time to grapple with pressing environmental issues.

Prof. Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve says that by restricting the EPA the Court has sent a message to the agencies that they are limited by the power delegated by Congress. He said that regulatory agencies such as the EPA would in the future have to carefully consider their course of action before every measure.

It affects the agencies would not be able to create fresh mechanisms and tools without getting them cleared through Congress, thus effectively making the EPA and other regulatory agencies redundant.

The Present Issue Of The EPA Pertains To Its Power To Regulate Coal-Fired Power Plants

The Supreme Court gave its ruling on the power of the EPA to regulate coal-powered power plants, the leading source of carbon emissions in the US that is contributing to climate change.

President Obama had set state-specific limits on carbon emissions and encouraged the states to switch to alternative sources of energy. The target set was met way ahead of schedule as coal-generated energy proved to be more expensive than other sources of generation.

But the court ruled that the EPA had not changed or adopted rules that it believes are ‘transformational’ to the US economy. The only route open is that Congress has to specifically authorize such major changes to address any specific problem, an impossible proposition as the Republicans are all set to take control of the Senate in the coming midterms.

The Republican camp has always been dismissive of all claims of climate change and has always favored big corporations over any environmental issues.

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