July 1, 2022 – Natural Gas Intelligence
SCOTUS Ruling on Power Plant Emissions Seen as Warning to Federal Agencies to Tread Lightly
By Andrew Baker
At the heart of the case was whether EPA had legal authority under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to implement the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama-era rulemaking from 2015 that sought to aggressively curb greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Before it could be implemented, the CPP was stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016, then repealed and replaced by the Trump administration in 2019 with the much narrower in scope Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. A federal appeals court struck down ACE in early 2021, a decision that the high court reversed in its ruling this week.
Though the CPP never took effect, its opponents feared a similar policy could be enacted unless the courts intervened, leading to the West Virginia case.
“The petitioners in the case — West Virginia, and North Dakota, along with two coal companies — asked the court to decide whether a particular provision in the CAA…which addresses standards of performance for existing stationary sources of air pollution, constitutionally gives blanket authority to the EPA to issue major rules on what kind of generators can run, without any limits on what it can require,” said RBN Energy LLC analyst Rick Smead. “Simply put, the petitioners questioned the scope of the EPA’s powers to force changes in generation mix in the name of greenhouse gas reduction.”