Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Supreme Court to weigh EPA move to regulate greenhouse gases

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's drive to regulate greenhouse gases could hit a snag at the Supreme Court today as industry groups and Republican-led states ask justices to block what they call a power grab by the president's environmental regulators.

Amid legislative inaction in a deadlocked Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted regulations in 2011 that require new power plants, factories and other such stationary facilities to cut carbon emissions.

The agency said the rules were justified by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that held that carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — seen as the chief culprits behind a warming planet — are air pollutants subject to EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act. In that decision, four conservative justices dissented, insisting that the law covered only air pollutants that make it hard to breath, such as smog, not those that act to trap solar energy in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Now, the dispute is back for Round 2 in the Supreme Court in a legal fight over how far the EPA can go in adapting the 1970s-era antipollution law to the 21st century's gravest environmental problem.

It is also a political fight, with a partisan lineup similar to the health care case two years ago.

Florida, Texas and 15 other Republican-led states joined with business and energy groups in accusing President Barack Obama and his EPA of overstepping their authority. California, Illinois and 13 other Democratic-led states joined with environmentalists in supporting the EPA's rules.

The case, to be argued today, is the latest example of an increasingly familiar Washington clash: The Obama administration uses executive authority to get around gridlock on Capitol Hill in pushing its agenda, then Republicans accuse the president of acting lawlessly in pursuit of his policies.

Politics aside, the case involves a dense set of regulations and asks only whether the EPA may restrict greenhouse gases coming from stationary sources.

In Obama's first year in office, the EPA set in motion rules that require new motor vehicles to burn less gasoline and reduce their carbon emissions. Those rules were upheld when the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge against them. Obama this past week announced plans to expand on such regulations with new limits on carbon emissions from trucks and buses.

But when the EPA tried to expand those rules to stationary facilities, industry leaders and Republican-dominated states argued that the agency had gone too far. Justices agreed last year to consider six different appeals of the rules.

Typically, stationary facilities would include power plants, but the challengers said the regulations could potentially extend to millions of others, including hospitals, shopping malls and universities. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the new rules, if put into full effect in 2016, would "erect the costliest, farthest reaching and most intrusive regulatory apparatus in the history of the American administrative state."

The regulations "mean we would see the cost of energy go up dramatically," said Richard Faulk, a Washington lawyer who represented local and state chambers of commerce. "And that would put a very serious burden on small business. And the administration is trying to do this unilaterally."

Environmentalists accused industry officials of greatly exaggerating the reach of the EPA's new rules and their likely cost. They noted that federal regulators have only targeted new and major emitters of carbon dioxide, such as power plants, not the vast number of facilities that produce carbon pollution.

To obtain a permit, new facilities must use the "best available technology" to reduce their greenhouse gases. That can be done by switching from coal to natural gas, environmentalists say.

The Democratic-led states, in a brief filed with the court, pointed to the "recent practical experience" in California and New York showing that switching to low carbon energy sources can produce "more efficient and less polluting industrial processes, delivered at a reasonable cost."

Once again, all eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who usually holds the deciding vote when the court is split. He joined the 5-4 opinion in 2007 that cleared the way for regulating greenhouse gases. But since then, he has voiced concern for over-regulation by the administration.

Coal-burning power plants like this one in Colstrip, Mont., are urged to reduce emissions that are changing the climate.

Associated Press

Coal-burning power plants like this one in Colstrip, Mont., are urged to reduce emissions that are changing the climate.

Supreme Court to weigh EPA move to regulate greenhouse gases 02/23/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 1:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst

    Business

    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75

    Accidents

    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.