Clean Air Act

For a while it seemed certain the Supreme Court would rule on the legality of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). With new regulations proposed to rescind the CPP, Supreme Court review seems less and less likely.  

If there was ever any doubt that President Trump’s March 28 executive order (EO) Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which called for the “suspending, revising, or rescinding,” of the CPP would not ultimately lead to the repeal of the CPP, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule states directly that it will.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the Trump Administration’s request to hold the Clean Power Plan (CPP) case in abeyance—for 60 days. The court also asked the parties to brief whether the case should be sent back to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would, practically speaking, invalidate the rule. At 30-day intervals EPA must file status reports with the court.

The court didn’t explain its reasons but likely it is concerned President Trump’s March 28 executive order (EO) Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth means the demise of the version of the CPP the court has been considering. The EO calls for the “suspending, revising, or rescinding,” of the CPP, if appropriate after EPA review.

While President Trump’s executive order (EO) on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth merely calls for the “review” of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), it has been widely viewed as the President’s first step to dismantle President Obama’s signature climate change measure. The EO goes on to say after review the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind the guidance, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules.”

Per the CPP by 2030 carbon pollution from the power sector is supposed to be 32 percent below 2005 levels. State-by-state targets are to be accomplished by increased production of renewable energy.

The Supreme Court has issued a stay preventing the Clean Power Plan regulations from going into effect until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court if it chooses to, rules on the regulations.

The Clean Power Plan requires power plants to reduce carbon emissions and establishes state-by-state targets to accomplish this goal.

                In Michigan v. EPA the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted unreasonably in failing to consider cost when deciding whether regulating mercury emissions from power plants is “appropriate and necessary.” Twenty-three states challenged the regulations.

                The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate air pollution from stationary sources based on how much pollution the source emits. But EPA may only regulate emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants if it finds that regulation is “appropriate and necessary.” EPA found it “appropriate” to regulate mercury emissions because they pose a risk to human health and the environment and controls are available to reduce them. EPA found it “necessary” to regulate mercury emissions because other requirements in the Act did not eliminate these risks.