Regulation of Greenhouse Gases to be ruled on by Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court announced on October 15, 2013 that it would hear petitions to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its jurisdiction by invoking the Clean Air Act in its decision to regulate carbon dioxide. The EPA found that since carbon dioxide from vehicles qualified as a public health risk, it could also regulate greenhouse gas emissions from “stationary sources” such as electrical plants, refineries and other industrial buildings.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is permitted to enact new regulations in the case of substances and emissions that endanger public health. The EPA previously found that carbon dioxide could be reasonably expected to present an imminent risk to human health and safety when it was in the process of enacting new regulations on motor vehicle emissions. It then used these findings to justify its new regulations on the emissions from stationary sources as well.

Nine petitions were filed after the EPA opted to enact new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions requirements, but the Supreme Court declined to hear three of these petitions. The three petitions that were rejected questioned the EPA’s authority on greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead of hearing the petitions questioning the EPA’s decision to enact these new regulations, the Supreme Court consolidated the remaining six petitions and will rule on whether the EPA had the authority to enact new permit regulations under the endangerment finding that allowed it to enact new regulations on motor vehicles.

Representatives from the industries affected by the future regulations warn that implementing the necessary changes to comply with the regulations will place too much of an economic strain. Representatives said that companies whose factories and other industrial centers will have to spend billions of dollars upgrading their facilities. They say this would have negative effects on local economies since companies would be forced to lay off and fire workers in order to finance these upgrades. They also stated that the EPA should not have the power to enact such profound regulations and that Congress should vote on such measures.

Environmental advocates filed briefs in support of the EPA’s decision and asked the Supreme Court to decline to hear any of the petitions.

 

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