WASHINGTON – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling will stop the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring permits for greenhouse gas emissions from new or modified industrial facilities, a move that the Texas attorney general sees as a victory.
The court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority by altering the emissions standard for greenhouse gases in the Clean Air Act to regulate more stationary sources. The opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said only Congress can do that.
That opinion resonated with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has long accused the EPA of overreach.
[“The President has said over and over again that where Congress does not act, he will act unilaterally. The EPA’s greenhouse gas permitting scheme is a perfect example of that dangerous philosophy in action," Abbott said in a released statement on June 23. "Today the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a stern rebuke to the President."
Texas and 16 other the states in the South and Midwest were among the parties whose cases were reviewed by the court.
The Court’s 5-4 ruling Monday, which in part reverses a 2012 federal appeals court decision, is being seen as a small victory for the energy industry and other opponents of more federal regulations who argue that the EPA’s proposed changes could cost billions to implement and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs.
The ruling did say the EPA could regulate greenhouse gas emissions from industries already required to get permits for other air pollutants. That would include power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities responsible for most emissions. That section of the ruling was a 7-2 vote with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting.
“It bears mention that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” Scalia wrote in the opinion, adding that to require permits for all industries “would contradict the principle that Congress, not the president, makes the law, and would undermine the separation of powers that is crucial to our constitutional system of government.”
"This is a great victory for the rule of law and for the Constitution," Abbott said. "It is a resounding defeat for those, like the President, who would use unelected bureaucracies to override the will of the people.”
However, the EPA also sees the decision as a victory.
“Today is a good day for all supporters of clean air and public health and those concerned with creating a better environment for future generations,” the EPA said in a release. “The Supreme Court’s decision is a win for our efforts to reduce carbon pollution, because it allows EPA, states and other permitting authorities to continue to require carbon pollution limits in permits for the largest pollution sources.”
The decision means the EPA can go ahead with new regulations on existing coal-fired power plants, which will have to cut emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Industry leaders, conservatives and Republican lawmakers claim the 1970 Clean Air Act doesn’t empower the administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources.
Earlier this year, the Court delivered what most consider a major victory for the Obama administration’s EPA when it upheld a rule forcing 28 states in the Midwest and South to cut ozone and fine particle emissions that migrate north and east into other states.
Chris Dickerson contributed to this story.