The United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling Thursday with major implications for energy production in the US, and efforts by climate activists to impose government restrictions on carbon emissions.
In a 6-3 decision, bringing the court’s six conservative justices together in the majority against the three progressive judges, the court rejected claims that the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency authority to tightly regulate the emission of greenhouse gases.
Specifically, Thursday’s ruling in the West Virginia v. EPA case, ruled against plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to impose limits on carbon emissions from power plants, as part of a plan first devised by the Obama administration requiring states to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Adopted by the EPA in 2015, the Clean Power Plan would likely have forced the closure of coal-fueled power plants across the country, prompting coal-producing states – led by West Virginia – to challenge the plan in court.
The plan, which was frozen after a Supreme Court ruling in 2016, was ultimately scrapped.
Under President Trump, the EPA adopted a new policy regarding carbon emissions, claiming limited authority to regulate the emissions.
While the specific plan at the center of the suit was dropped by the EPA, Thursday’s ruling could significantly curtail the EPA’s ability to restrict carbon emissions in the future.
The Biden administration is drafting its own plan to curb carbon emissions, including from US power plants. A formal proposal is expected by the end of the year, though the court’s ruling could force major changes to the plan.