SCOTUS to Hear Question on EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Stationary Sources

Environmental Law


The Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) has agreed to hear arguments on a narrow question concerning the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources such as oil refineries and power-generating facilities. In the seminal case Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), the Court held that carbon was a pollutant that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The Court further held that pursuant to Clean Air Act § 202(a)(1), the Agency was required to regulate motor vehicle emissions if it found that such emissions endangered the public health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA made its Endangerment Finding determining that greenhouse gases endangered the health and welfare of Americans and, pursuant to this finding, the EPA enacted standards for motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. However, the issue now is whether the EPA’s authority to regulate motor vehicle emissions gives it the right to regulate stationary-source emissions. This issue stems from the EPA’s issuance of the “Timing Rule,” which determined that EPA’s authority to regulate motor vehicles triggered its authority to regulate stationary sources through permit programs under the Act. The Court is only reviewing this narrow issue and not revisiting the scientific underpinning of climate change and whether carbon is a pollutant. Both industry leaders and environmentalists are content with this review, though for very different reasons. Those representing industry are encouraged by this decision hoping that the Court will reign in EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Environmentalists are glad that the Court is only reviewing a very limited question and it is their belief that no matter the decision, it will not have a significant impact on the EPA’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Arguments will be heard in early 2014.

For more information on greenhouse gas emission standards and EPA regulatory authority, please contact Miriam Villani or Jason Kaplan.

Posted by Miriam Villani