EPA, states continue to combat climate change despite SCOTUS ruling

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Grace Smith | July 15, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court curbed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to restrict pollution coming from greenhouse gases. But, not all its power was stripped. The EPA and the Biden Administration have new plans in place to reach President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions in half by 2030. 

Joseph Goffman, Biden’s nominee for EPA’s air chief, told the New York Times the ruling against the EPA didn’t alter any current plans that the agency has. Next year, the agency plans to implement more restraints on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-powered plants. The EPA also plans to propose a regulation that cuts emissions from new gas-powered plants.

Now that the Supreme Court created a setback for action against climate change, the role of state and local level efforts increases. Colorado has passed about 50 climate laws over the last four years and is working to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030, as well as New York. 

Although the state of Iowa doesn’t have a statewide climate plan, an Iowa City plan, which has about 35 actions, includes decreasing greenhouse gases in the community by 80 percent by 2050. In addition, Cedar Rapids’ plan to combat climate change seeks zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

Supreme Court narrows EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

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Grace Smith | July 1, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) does not have the authority to administer expansive regulations on pollution from power plants. The ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency puts a strain on President Joe Biden’s efforts to manage climate change. 

The Clean Air Act of 1970, a plan put in place to govern greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, was brought up in the case. But, because of lawsuits and other issues, the program stalled in 2016. So, the Biden Administration attempted to dismiss the case because there were no plans in place from the E.P.A. that would govern the power plant, but the argument didn’t work. 

The U.S. is the second world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter as of 2021, accounting for around 11 percent of the world’s total emissions. In 2020, the electricity sector, or the energy industry, was the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25%, in the U.S., behind transportation. 

The E.P.A. doesn’t have the power it would have held, but not all their leadership is stripped. The E.P.A. can still regulate power plants, but it can’t do the necessary amount of cutting and shutting down to reduce the critical amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Because of the new ruling, Biden’s promise to the world that the U.S. would cut greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 has become a more challenging goal to achieve. Coral Davenport, a New York Times energy and environmental policy reporter, said for Biden to achieve this, new legislation and stricter regulations on all sectors of pollution need to be put in place.

Supreme Court Allows Construction of a Pipeline that May Cross Underneath the Appalachian Trail

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Nicole Welle | June 18, 2020

The Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a pipeline company by saying that a new natural gas pipeline could cross underneath the Appalachian trail on federal land.

The 600-mile pipeline is being developed by Duke Energy and Dominion energy and would run from West Virginia to population centers in Virginia and North Carolina. The 7-2 Supreme Court ruling overturned part of a lower court decision that blocked construction of the pipeline, and the case revolved around the question of which federal agency, if any, had the authority to grant the permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to an Iowa Public Radio article.

The U.S. Forest Service initially granted the permit in 2018 since they administer George Washington National Forest where the pipeline would cross the trail. However, a number of environmental groups raised concerns over the agency’s authority to do so. They believe that because the Appalachian trail is part of the National Park System, rules that govern National Park lands should apply instead.

There are also a number of environmental concerns associated with the construction of the pipeline. However, the Supreme Court noted that the pipeline would run hundreds of feet underground and entry and exit points are nowhere near the trail when making their decision. The winning argument centered on the interpretation of certain words in various federal laws and succeeded in disentangling the trail from the land beneath it. This will allow construction of the pipeline to proceed under the permit granted by the Forest Service.

Supreme Court: EPA warranted in most greenhouse gas regulations

Nick Fetty | June 23, 2014

The United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. Photo by Mike Renlund; Flickr
The United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.
Photo by Mike Renlund; Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency is warranted in enforcing most, but not all, of its regulations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This decision does not pertain to the EPA’s recently proposed Clean Power Plan and instead focuses on aspects of the Clean Air Act.  Justice Scalia – who wrote the decision – noted that the EPA “is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.”

Read more about the ruling in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and hundreds of other sources.

Supreme Court rejects climate change lawsuit

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The Supreme Court blocked a climate change lawsuit filed by six states including Iowa. USA Today reports that these states sued five power companies, demanding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The courts rejected the lawsuit on grounds that it’s the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency to enact any such regulation:

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected Monday a lawsuit by six states that were suing five major power companies for emitting greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

In a victory for the utilities and President Obama’s administration, the high court ruled the Environmental Protection Agency — not the courts — should place restrictions on such heat-trapping emissions. It reversed a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that would have allowed federal judges to issue restrictions. Continue reading