The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the arguments in the most important environmental case in more than a decade. The arguments in a dispute could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control the pollution that is causing damage to the planet.
The case began in the year 2009, former President of the U.S. Barack Obama had to face an unpleasant reality. The U.S observed that climate change is a problem too big to address without an international agreement and it should be dealt with seriously.
The government led by Obama reduced the carbon emissions produced by the auto industry and then addressed the country’s single largest carbon emissions problem- coal fired power plants. Strict carbon limits for each state was set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the states were encouraged to meet those limits by transitioning to alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar, hydro-electric and natural gas.
The main aim of setting strict carbon limits was to produce enough electricity to satisfy U.S. demands in a way that lowered the greenhouse emissions.
The plan worked very well but it was temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court and repealed by the Trump administration, however, the market forces of the U.S. continued to follow the trajectory. The EPA estimated the targeted emission reductions under the plan by 2030, but to everyone’s surprise, even without the regulation in place, the industry achieved that level of reductions in 2019, 11 years early said Andres Restrepo of Sierra Club.
The Clean Power Plan was surrendered by the Biden administration fearing a disastrous ruling. The Biden administration planned to write a new law that would regulate the coal fired plants. However, the court asserted its power and agreed to review the revoked plan. The court’s six-justice conservative supermajority has been itching to limit the power of regulatory agencies and potentially even the power of Congress.
President Biden’s plan to halve the nation’s greenhouse emissions by the end of the decade could lie in tatters if the high court with its conservative supermajority takes a decision.
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University said that “they could handcuff the federal government’s ability to affordably reduce greenhouse gases from power plants. But the outcome could also have repercussions that stretch well beyond air pollution, restricting the ability of federal agencies to regulate health care, workplace safety, financial sector and more.”
It is highly unusual for the Supreme Court to take up a case that revolves around a hypothetical situation said the legal experts.
Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University said, “trying to figure out the contours of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases when there’s no regulation being defended is just kind of a weird thing for the court to consider. I was surprised when they took the case.”
The West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency want the high court to block the changes to the electricity sectors which defined the Clean Power Plan of Obama.
On the other hand attorney general of Republican in 18 states will argue that the 1970 Clean Air Act limits the EPA to dictate changes only at individual power plants,not across the entire power section.
“This is really about a fundamental question of who decided the major issues of the day. Should it be unelected bureaucrats or should it be the people’s representatives in Congress? That’s what this case is all about. It’s very straightforward” said Patrick Morrisey, attorney general of West Virginia.
Nation’s biggest private and public power companies, which support a broad regulation of their greenhouse pollution will be supporting Biden administration’s arguments in the court.
The private companies argued that they prefer flexibility which was offered under the plan of Obama that allowed them to lower emissions by making changes across the electric grid, shutting down some plants, making others more efficient and expanding wind and solar power plants.
Lawyers representing EPA will be paying attention to the arguments as they have to propose the power plan climate regulation next month.
Mr. Biden had pledged to cut down greenhouse gases as the climate change is being felt in the form of devastating floods, wildfires, drought and rising seas. The climate change has killed people across the globe and cost billions in damage across the United States.
Climate is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area, global warming is often linked to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas by industries and cars. Human activities has increased the carbons dioxide emissions in the environment by more than 20 percent in the past 100 years.
President Biden’ climate change initiatives include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in part by setting higher efficiency standards for cars, buildings and consumer appliances. Much of Biden’s plan also involves working with other nations and securing commitments that they will abide by global climate agreements.
According to reports, Biden’s plan which is yet to be announced, would represent “the largest-ever investment in clean energy research and innovation” at an estimated cost of $400 billion over 10 years.