Justices to review greenhouse gas regulation
February 21st, 2014
03:03 PM ET
5 months ago

Justices to review greenhouse gas regulation

(CNN) – The Supreme Court will take another look at government regulation of air pollution in a high-stakes environmental and economic fight pitting the Obama administration against a coalition of states and utilities.

The justices on Monday will hear six separate appeals, which have been consolidated into an hour of oral arguments. A ruling is expected by June.

At issue is whether the Environmental Protection Agency can tighten emissions standards for "stationary" greenhouse gas sources, such as power plants, in what the Obama administration says is an effort to stem the effects of global warming.

In the larger political sphere, this issue could be major test of executive authority, with many conservative groups painting President Barack Obama as misusing his power and ignoring the will of the legislature.

Republicans in Congress and their allies have expressed similar concerns over discretionary changes and delays in implementing the Obamacare health reform law; a tepid federal response to recent state marijuana legalization; and a refusal to defend a law that did not recognize legally-married same-sex couples for federal purposes.

The high court last summer struck down that provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Supreme Court in 2007 affirmed the conclusions by much of the scientific community that greenhouse gases are an air pollutant, but that case dealt with emissions from motor vehicles.

A range of business groups say the agency then improperly extended its regulatory authority to stationary sources.

Texas was among the states whose cases were accepted. The justices had earlier rejected three other related appeals, including one from Virginia state officials– broader challenges to the EPA's power over carbon emissions.

Numerous environmental groups support the administration, saying the court's acceptance of only one legal question was a positive sign.

"The Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that EPA has the authority and the responsibility to address climate pollution," said Vickie Patton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund, which filed a legal brief in the case.

"It is vital to our nation's public health and prosperity that large industrial emitters deploy common sense pollution controls to mitigate climate pollution in the same way they have so effectively cut other air pollutants," Patton said.

A coalition of states is backing the administration: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, along with the City of New York.

Some progressive groups worry the conservative majority Supreme Court has been overly friendly to corporate interests in recent years, and could rule in this case against the Obama administration.

This is the second major environmental regulation case that will be heard this term.

The justices in December heard arguments over the EPA's ability to measure emissions from an upwind state that is polluting a downwind state, requiring those upwind states to pay for greenhouse gas reductions. A ruling in that case is still pending.

Many business groups hope the conservative majority will limit the reach of government in this and a range of regulatory areas, which the Chamber of Commerce and others say is hurting the economy and stifling innovation.

"EPA's warped regulatory theory would expand greenhouse gas regulation, on a timetable of EPA's own choosing, to the entire economy in violation of statute," said Cory Andrews of the Washington Legal Foundation. "It is therefore vitally important that the court clarify the intended scope of EPA's authority, before this regulatory mischief spreads further."

And leaders of other states opposing the federal government say the Obama administration's actions are "unprecedented."

"The EPA's illegal regulations threaten Texas jobs and Texas employers," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. "As Texas has proven in other lawsuits against the EPA, this is a runaway federal agency." Abbott is also running for governor of Texas as a Republican.

The cases to be argued Monday are Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. EPA (12-1272); Texas v. EPA (12-1269); Southeastern Legal Foundation v. EPA (12-1268); Energy-Intensive Manufacturers Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Regulation v. EPA (12-1254); American Chemistry Council v. EPA (12-1248); and Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (12-1146).


Filed under: climate change • Supreme Court
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    " The cases to be argued Monday are Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. EPA (12-1272); "

    When I was growing up, the Chamber of Commerce was made up of respected local businessmen, and their focus was the betterment of the local community.

    Now they are a right-wing hate group. Have they no concern for the children who have to breath this pollution? What about family values?

    February 21, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  2. just asking

    if there are no limits to the epa then we are all screwed. pretty soon every animal and person in the country will have a pollution device stuck up our backside. and the states that own those nasty volcanoes had better make damn sure they do not erupt or your state is going to see some major league fines.

    February 21, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Republicans love to express concern for national debt that is being left for later generations, and rightfully so. If they are so concerned about future generations, then where is their concern about the environment? Should we err on the side of caution when it comes to the environment? If we make certain mistakes, we cannot take them back.

    February 21, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    just asking

    No, that is coming if we do not take care of things now. You probably whine when someone lights a cigarette.

    February 21, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Silence DoGood

    @Bill from GA
    " The cases to be argued Monday are Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. EPA (12-1272); "

    When I was growing up, the Chamber of Commerce was made up of respected local businessmen, and their focus was the betterment of the local community.

    Now they are a right-wing hate group. Have they no concern for the children who have to breath this pollution? What about family values?
    ----------–
    The Radical Right has no problem organizing big money, big lobbies, mega-organizations, anonymous attack groups, pandering to fringe hate groups to push forward their agenda but let Obama use the bully-pulpit or legal executive order, and they have a cow.

    February 21, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. it must be said

    Rudy NYC
    Republicans love to express concern for national debt that is being left for later generations, and rightfully so. If they are so concerned about future generations, then where is their concern about the environment? Should we err on the side of caution when it comes to the environment? If we make certain mistakes, we cannot take them back.
    -–

    News Flash.... Future generations will need jobs and energy. Well, maybe not if Democrats stay in power. They can just live with their parents until they are 45.

    February 21, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  7. carlos

    just asking

    This modern day Chamber of Commerce is purely about profit, not concern for community.
    Ask the people of West Virginia. Remember Love canal? How about coal sludge in North Carolina?
    I wish you could protect my breathing rights as fervently as you protect your gun rights.

    February 21, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Silence DoGood

    @Rudy NYC
    Republicans love to express concern for national debt that is being left for later generations, and rightfully so. If they are so concerned about future generations, then where is their concern about the environment? Should we err on the side of caution when it comes to the environment? If we make certain mistakes, we cannot take them back.
    ----------
    The GOP has no concept of long-term effects, statistics or basic science. Funny that most of them favor taking some (or all) science out of the classroom. Coincidence? I think not.

    February 21, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    @just asking: "if there are no limits to the epa then we are all screwed. pretty soon every animal and person in the country will have a pollution device stuck up our backside. and the states that own those nasty volcanoes had better make damn sure they do not erupt or your state is going to see some major league fines."

    Please go visit Beijing for a long time and report back on the wonders of no environmental regulations.

    February 21, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. just asking

    don in albuquerque
    just asking
    No, that is coming if we do not take care of things now. You probably whine when someone lights a cigarette.
    -–

    who is we? does it include the indians, chinese and the rest oif the world? they pollute the air far more than american businesses do. and then if one volcano erupts, all of these 'savings' are totally meaningless as far, far more is spewed into the atmosphere than could ever be saved by controls just in this country.

    liberals and democrats are such gloom and doomers, that totally ignore reality. oh well, at least al gore is getting rich of this nonsense.

    February 21, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. S. B. Stein

    What would people rather have: no debt but can't live in the world or some debt (if that is really the case) and a world they can live in? The point is that there should be a happy medium between full stopping of polluting the air, water and ground and still having a industrial and manufacturing sector.

    February 21, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    "News Flash.... Future generations will need jobs and energy. Well, maybe not if Democrats stay in power. They can just live with their parents until they are 45."

    Unless we come up with another planet that can sustain life as we know it (or work together to maintain this planet we call Earth), living with their parents until age 45 won't be the biggest issue future generations will be forced to contend with.

    February 21, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    "News Flash.... Future generations will need jobs and energy. Well, maybe not if Democrats stay in power. They can just live with their parents until they are 45."
    ------------------------------
    What about the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land in which we grow our food? Are they drinking the water in West Virginia, yet? What about all of the people downstream from the industrial disaster? Do you know how easy it is to construct a berm that is large enough to contain the contents of a ruptured tank?

    February 21, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    @SilenceDoGood: "The GOP has no concept of long-term effects, statistics or basic science. Funny that most of them favor taking some (or all) science out of the classroom. Coincidence? I think not."

    The GOP has devolved into a collection of short-term thinkers who live in a fantasy world of trickle-down economics and no accountability, coupled with a religious philosophy that actively pursues the "Second Coming," because then they'll all get to go to heaven with only other people just like them. They tell themselves that God will take care of everything, so they can just do whatever they want, to whomever they want, regardless of consequence because the "market" will "correct" itself and they are "saved" because they say "Praise Jesus!" on a regular basis.

    February 21, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    @just asking: "who is we? does it include the indians, chinese and the rest oif the world? they pollute the air far more than american businesses do. and then if one volcano erupts, all of these 'savings' are totally meaningless as far, far more is spewed into the atmosphere than could ever be saved by controls just in this country.

    liberals and democrats are such gloom and doomers, that totally ignore reality. oh well, at least al gore is getting rich of this nonsense."

    The U.S., along with other forward-thinking nations, can lead in the efforts to reduce the impact of human activity on our planet. Or as my mom used to say, Just because Johnny sticks his head in the fire, doesn't mean you should.

    Regarding the volcano, again, you are arguing that since there's a possibility that there may be setbacks in our efforts we shouldn't even try.

    Talk about gloom and doom! Maybe you shouldn't get out of bed any more – let alone touch a computer – because something bad might happen.

    February 21, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  16. Malory Archer

    just asking

    if there are no limits to the epa then we are all screwed. pretty soon every animal and person in the country will have a pollution device stuck up our backside. and the states that own those nasty volcanoes had better make damn sure they do not erupt or your state is going to see some major league fines.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yeah except volcanic emissions, while dangerous when happening, are actually good for the planet. Volcanic ash is loaded with essential minerals that fertilize the soil and create a hospitable environment. See the area immediately surrounding Mount St. Helens for reference.

    February 21, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain

    GOP/tea bags: Wah, wah, wah, we have debt (caused by our failed policies of unfunded wars and unfunded Medicare Part D, but please don't ask us to think or be accountable – we're too busy whining – again!). It's so unfair to our children! We need to cut taxes on the wealthy so they can create jobs (which has never happened, but hey, that won't stop us)! We need to eliminate the social safety net that helps the most vulnerable among us because we all know they are just a bunch of lazy moochers who would get a job if we didn't give them handouts (don't remind us that the economy is still in recovery and there are many more applicants for jobs these days).

    We have to do all this – we have to THINK OF OUR CHILDREN AND OUR GRANDCHILDREN! Our debt will kill them all!

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    What? Do something to reduce pollution and the effects of unprecedented human and industrial activity? Screw the kids – efforts will cost us money and NOTHING takes precedence over that!

    February 21, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. just asking

    ThinkAgain
    Please go visit Beijing for a long time and report back on the wonders of no environmental regulations.
    -–

    nobody is talking about no regulations. we are talking about where the line is drawn. btw, do you think all that chinese pollution honors their borders? of course not. it comes here as well. until the rest oif the world catches up to us, we are crippling ourselves and the businesses here. you lefties just don't grasp the costs of your environental zealotry.

    February 21, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. ja

    Their recent rulings are kind of shaky (campaign finance)

    February 21, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. don in albuquerque

    just asking

    Do you really think your posts deserve an intelligent answer? If you do then I suggest an intelligent premise and question.

    February 21, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  21. The REAL Truth...

    @just asking – who is we? does it include the indians, chinese and the rest oif the world? they pollute the air far more than american businesses do. and then if one volcano erupts, all of these 'savings' are totally meaningless as far, far more is spewed into the atmosphere than could ever be saved by controls just in this country.

    liberals and democrats are such gloom and doomers, that totally ignore reality. oh well, at least al gore is getting rich of this nonsense.
    ------------------------------–
    So let's all just ignore reality (as you do) and pollute our grandchildrens air (since you constantly whine about polluting the fiscal debt) and wait for some eruption to screw up the rest of it.. yup, right wing family values in action!

    February 21, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  22. The Real Tom Paine

    -just asking

    don in albuquerque
    just asking
    No, that is coming if we do not take care of things now. You probably whine when someone lights a cigarette.
    -–

    who is we? does it include the indians, chinese and the rest oif the world? they pollute the air far more than american businesses do. and then if one volcano erupts, all of these 'savings' are totally meaningless as far, far more is spewed into the atmosphere than could ever be saved by controls just in this country.

    liberals and democrats are such gloom and doomers, that totally ignore reality. oh well, at least al gore is getting rich of this nonsense.
    ****************
    So, you admit the problem is worldwide, yet your solution is to do nothing because you can't get 100% assurance that other countries will follow suit? Sounds like a typical conservative response. Probably would cut into your profit margins as well, so that's even more incentive to do nothing. You can't get 100% assurance that everything will eb all right, so its ok to sit on your a$$ and do nothing because of things beyond your control like volcanoes erupting. Typical defeatist, rightie, cowardly thinking. " Oh jeez, if we get involved with something, we might not get it taken care of in 20 minutes so I can go back to watching cable. We had better not try at all." Idiots.

    February 21, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    "nobody is talking about no regulations. we are talking about where the line is drawn. btw, do you think all that chinese pollution honors their borders? of course not. it comes here as well. until the rest oif the world catches up to us, we are crippling ourselves and the businesses here. you lefties just don't grasp the costs of your environental zealotry."
    ---------------------------------
    Thinking like that is why FEMA is spending millions shipping water to West Virginia right now.

    February 21, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  24. The Real Tom Paine

    It all comes down to short -term cost for the Right. Tell me, place a dollar value on your health and the health of everyone on the planet, so we know exactly how we fit into your actuarial apprach to things. Come on Just Saying, give us a number. Donna, care to try?

    February 21, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  25. Rick McDaniel

    Environmental gas issues, CANNOT be of ANY benefit, unless they are WORLD WIDE. The release of gases into the air affects the entire globe, and NOT just the U.S.

    February 21, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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