In a 6-3 ruling on Thursday, the Supreme Court limited the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.
The court ruled in West Virginia v. EPA that the agency does not have broad authority to shift the country from coal-burning power plants to cleaner energy like wind and solar.
The ruling will curb the Biden administration’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said Congress had not given the EPA sweeping authority to regulate the energy industry. He wrote that while cutting carbon emissions may be a solution to the crisis of the day, decisions of such “magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
Utah was among two dozen Republican-led states to challenge the EPA’s authority in the lawsuit.
Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak said in a statement that the case is about who has the power to make those decisions.
“The Supreme Court rightly recognized that Congress did not give the EPA the authority to make these significant national policy decisions regarding how Americans get their energy,” Holyoak said. “The decision corrects the EPA from unlawfully imposing measures that cost hundreds of billions of dollars and impact millions of Americans.”
The EPA’s plan would impose billions in costs, resulting in closed power plants, job losses and higher energy prices for consumers, according to the attorney general’s office. About 60% of Utah’s electricity is generated from coal-fired power plants.
In a press release, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance legal director Steve Bloch said the group is disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision that “goes to extraordinary lengths to limit the federal government’s ability to tackle the ongoing climate crisis.”
“The court’s radical and activist agenda poses a real threat to federal agency oversight and management of public lands, air and waters that will have real implications in Utah,” Bloch said.
While the ruling created limitations to what the EPA could regulate, it did not completely remove its power to regulate the energy sector.
The EPA will still be able to create regulations such as emissions controls on individual power plants, but larger approaches like cap-and-trade systems have been ruled out by the decision.
In a tweet on Thursday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she is “sickened” by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This decision hurts us all today and our future even more,” she wrote.
I’m sickened again by SCOTUS acting to undermine the well-being of the American people. Carbon emissions affecting climate change is the most pressing global issue for governments to grapple with. This decision hurts us all today and our future even more.https://t.co/rNCrrlYa7M— Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) June 30, 2022
The battle over EPA regulations began during the Obama administration when the agency announced plans to regulate carbon dioxide pollution from power plants by offering credits for generating more power from lower-emitting sources.
Some states and coal companies proceeded to sue, saying the Clean Air Act only allowed regulations on specific power plants and not requiring power plants to change to different methods of power generation entirely.