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Breaking down the Supreme Court ruling on the EPA

Government’s power in regulating carbon emissions limited

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce regulations that aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

And according to a Reuters article, the court’s decision could “hamstring the administration’s ability to curb the power sector’s emissions, about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gases.”

“The question in this case was did the EPA have the authority to implement the Clean Power Plan?” said Armchair Attorney Matthew Leffler. “The Supreme Court ultimately decided that they did not under something they call the major questions doctrine. They believed they did not have the authority and if they wanted it, they needed to return to Congress to obtain the authority.”

The ruling also contradicts President Joe Biden’s goal of decarbonizing the U.S. power sector by 2035 and could affect other industries such as the transportation industry and the progress it has made around emissions reporting and reductions. However, Tyler Cole, director of product marketing and sales at Infinium, does not believe this has to be a setback.

“I think the [setbacks for those who want to move forward the net-zero carbon agenda] are probably less than people might anticipate. The ruling didn’t state that they couldn’t regulate emissions or help the power grid to be cleaner. It is just altering the methods in which to go about it,” said Cole.

Cole added that carbon-reduction efforts have made gains since the early 2000s.

“Emissions are falling rapidly from the power sector and the market is continuing to adopt renewables because they are becoming cheaper. We are expecting this to continue,” said Cole. “It is a slight blow right now — the regulation has to be more pointed and will take longer than we would like to see, but the market is going to continue to do what it has done for the last 15 years, and that’s to decarbonize rapidly.” 

Despite the recent ruling, Biden’s administration has stated that they are currently working on new regulations.

Britni Chisenall

Britni Chisenall is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves. She lives in Ooltewah, TN with her husband, Garrett and her cat, Lily. Britni is a graduate of Dalton State College.