The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a significant case challenging EPA regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from fixed sources like power plants, which contribute to climate change. But the Court declined to hear other attacks on the EPA’s regulatory authority.
States and industry groups challenged the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a major directive of President Obama’s National Climate Action Plan, announced in June.
Despite scientific research on the health dangers of carbon emissions, the challengers to the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations “raised a variety of issues, including the basic question of whether EPA had justified its finding that such emissions are a hazard to public health,” according to SCOTUSblog.
In 2007, the case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency required that the EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles if the agency found that emissions endangered public health. Two years later, the EPA’s scientific study found that “elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” pose a threat to “the public health and welfare current and future generations.”
As a result of the case, the EPA set fuel-efficiency standards, or limits on emissions from new motor vehicles, as well as limits on emissions from stationary sources such as power plants.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court justices accepted six petitions against the EPA, saying that it would only consider a single question for all of them. Three more petitions challenging the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions regulations were denied.
One petitioner, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said the EPA’s regulation of “greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, represents the most sweeping expansion of EPA’s authority in the agency’s history, extending its reach to potentially millions of industrial, commercial, and residential facilities across the country…”
The ACC is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and was a private sector member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force in 2011. The council represents about 175 companies including ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company.
Texas is one of the states challenging the EPA’s authority. After being notified that the Supreme Court will hear his state’s challenge to the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas initiatives, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement that “The EPA violated the U.S. Constitution and the federal Clean Air Act when it concocted greenhouse gas regulations out of whole cloth.”
Abbott referred to the EPA’s emissions standards as “illegal regulations” and said that they threatened jobs. “We are pleased the Obama Administration will have to defend its lawless regulations before the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added.
Environmental groups chose instead to focus on the petitions that the Supreme Court refused to hear.
In a statement yesterday, Vickie Patton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund said that “Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to deny numerous further legal challenges to EPA’s science-based determination that six greenhouse gases threaten our nation’s health and well-being is a historic victory for all Americans,” the New York Times reports.
“The justices have also declined to hear legal challenges to the broadly supported clean car standards that will strengthen our nation’s security, cut carbon pollution and save families money at the gas pump,” she said.
This year alone, scientists have released multiple findings on the negative impact of carbon emission on human health. In June, a study linking air pollution and autism, published by Environmental Health Perspectives, concluded that “perinatal exposure to air pollutants,” such as diesel, lead, manganese, mercury, methylene chloride, and other industrial byproduct pollutants, “may increase risk for ASD.”
In July, two studies, published in the Lancet Oncology Journal, linked air pollution to lung cancer and heart failure. And, last month, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would save millions of lives per year by 2100 by decreasing air pollution.