Climate 411

Power companies, businesses, and experts support EPA authority to address climate pollution at Supreme Court

More than a dozen amicus curiae – or “friend of the court” – briefs were filed in support of EPA in West Virginia et al. v. EPA, a Supreme Court legal challenge brought by coal companies and their allies in an effort to undermine EPA’s authority to safeguard human health and the environment from the climate pollution emitted by power plants.

Amicus briefs are common in Supreme Court cases and can provide the Justices with important information or arguments from entities that are not themselves party to the legal challenge. But the amici supporting EPA here are especially notable for their breadth and expertise. They represent a far-reaching set of interests and entities, including a large coalition of the nation’s power companies, former power company leaders, major American businesses and manufacturers, power sector experts, climate scientists, legal scholars, medical and public health experts, almost 200 members of Congress, and the Edison Electric Institute – which represents numerous companies that would themselves be regulated under any hypothetical EPA rule filed in support of EPA’s authority here.

Such a substantial showing of amici underscores the significance of maintaining EPA’s authority to regulate climate pollution and protect human health and the environment in the face of aggressive attacks from the coal petitioners and their allies.

Here’s more about the amicus briefs:

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Also posted in EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

An attack on hypothetical climate pollution safeguards lands at the Supreme Court. EDF will fight to protect climate action.

EPA’s authority to safeguard human health and the environment is longstanding and well-established. But now there’s a new case before the Supreme Court that threatens it.

The case was brought by coal companies and their allies, whose efforts to tightly constrict EPA’s ability are not only alarming but also should not even be before the Supreme Court. That’s why EDF is participating in the case (West Virginia et al. v. EPA) in support of the agency’s clear authority and obligation to reduce climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. We joined other leading environmental groups and trade associations to file our merits brief in the case. Almost two dozen states and several cities, the federal government, and power companies that provide power to 40 million people in 49 states also filed in support of EPA.

The arguments made by the petitioners in this case do not articulate an actual, redressable injury. The case before the Supreme Court necessarily lacks this essential ingredient necessary for court review because the rule petitioners take issue with is not currently in effect. In fact, the rule has never been in effect.

Put simply, no actual dispute exists.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Safeguarding EPA’s authority at the Supreme Court is a climate imperative

Coal companies and supporting states recently filed opening briefs in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, a case involving the Trump Administration’s repeal of, and weak replacement for, the 2015 Clean Power Plan regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Although neither regulation is in effect – indeed, EPA has indicated that it plans to adopt a new rule working from a clean slate — Petitioners seek to use this case to effect sweeping changes in longstanding legal doctrine and well-established norms. Petitioners are not only asking the Court to do extraordinary damage to EPA authority, but also set forth their arguments expansively so as to apply to a wide range of vital services and laws – turning this case into one broadly relevant to the ability for expert agencies to protect human health, the environment, and other public values.

These concerns are not theoretical. Petitioners have filed papers with the Supreme Court that argue that tight constrictions should be put around EPA’s efforts to address climate change. What Petitioners seek stands in stark contrast to what this moment demands and ignores the fact that Congress intended EPA, through the Clean Air Act, to address big problems like nationwide air pollution coming from the country’s largest industries.

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The Supreme Court will review a crucial case about climate pollution from power plants. Now what?

(This post was co-authored by EDF legal fellow Jesse Hevia)

The Supreme Court has agreed to review a D.C. Circuit decision that struck down the Trump administration’s rule weakening regulations of carbon pollution from power plants.

Here’s a look at what happened – and what might happen next.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Four Reasons Petitions for Supreme Court Review of Climate Pollution Standards for Power Plants Should Fail

This coming Monday, the Supreme Court will consider hundreds of petitions for review, which ask the Court to take up cases for full consideration during its new term. Among the petitions for review are four from coal companies and states asking the Court to review the D.C. Circuit decision overturning the Trump administration’s rule weakening regulations of carbon pollution from power plants. For multiple reasons the four petitions lack merit.

The Clean Power Plan, adopted in 2015, established the first-ever national limits on climate pollution from existing power plants. In 2019, the Trump administration adopted regulations to repeal the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the “ACE” rule – which did virtually nothing to limit pollution.

This January the D.C. Circuit struck down this attempt, issuing a narrow opinion that explained how ACE misinterpreted specific language in section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

In the months since the D.C. Circuit’s decision, neither the Clean Power Plan nor the Trump administration’s weak replacement rule has been in effect, meaning that no power plants or operators have experienced harm under either rule. Additionally, EPA has been working from a clean slate on new safeguards that will reflect current information about our rapidly changing power sector. Despite this, and the fact that no one is subject to any compliance obligations under the Clean Power Plan or ACE, coal companies and 21 states are asking the Supreme Court to reverse the D.C. Circuit opinion and issue a statutory interpretation that limits EPA’s ability under the Clean Air Act to protect the public from climate pollution.

Effectively, they are asking the Court for an “advisory” opinion — a free-floating legal opinion untethered to any current dispute but intended to constrain future behavior. EDF is part of a coalition of environmental organizations that – along with almost two dozen states and cities, power companies and business associations – opposes this challenge.

Rather than take up this case in order to consider legal theories in the abstract, the appropriate course would be for the Court to allow EPA to complete its new rulemaking, which will be subject to judicial review once finalized. At that time, reviewing courts will be able to assess EPA’s actual application of its Clean Air Act authority in the context of real compliance obligations and a factual record that reflects current realities.

Here are four key reasons that the petitioners’ pleas for Supreme Court review should fail:

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed

The case against the Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency will file a legal brief today defending its decision to dismantle the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the harmful and cynically misnamed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

But nothing EPA says can alter the fact that ACE is destructive, costly, and unlawful. EPA projects that ACE will reduce power sector emissions by a mere 0.7 percent by 2030, and will increase pollution at nearly one in five of the nation’s coal plants, two-thirds of which are located in minority and low-income communities.

In the face of a growing and ever-perilous climate crisis calling for meaningful action, we expect EPA will claim the Clean Air Act does not permit the agency to do more to reduce emissions from the nation’s largest industrial source of carbon pollution. This claim severely distorts the statutory requirements.

EDF filed suit last summer as part of a broad coalition of states, cities, other health and environmental advocates, power companies, and clean energy trade associations. In April, the coalition filed legal briefs showing that EPA has ample authority — and a clear obligation — under the Clean Air Act to require meaningful reduction of carbon pollution from power plants. These briefs collectively demonstrate that EPA’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan is based on a gross misreading of the Clean Air Act, and the agency’s replacement rule, premised on the same misreading, fails to live up to the statutory command that power plants use the “best system of emission reduction” to limit their carbon pollution.

Here are the key arguments we’ve made against the Clean Power Plan rollback and ACE.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Comments are closed