Law and not policy is supposed to be the basis upon which courts decide cases.  Yet the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding permitting stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases is full of as much policy as law.  The Court’s bottom line is this:  The burdens on the states of giving EPA everything it wants are simply too much.

The Clean Air Act regulates pollution-generating emissions from stationary source (factories, power plants, etc.) and moving sources (cars, trucks, planes, etc.).  In 2007 in Massachusetts v. EPA the Court held EPA could regulate greenhouse gases emissions from new motor vehicles.  As a result of that case, EPA concluded it was required or permitted to apply permitting requirements to all stationary sources that emitted greenhouse gases in excess of statutory thresholds. 

In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA the Court held 5-4 that EPA cannot require stationary sources to obtain Clean Air Act permits only because they emit greenhouse gases.  But, the Court concluded 7-2, EPA may require “anyway” stationary sources, which have to obtain permits based on their emissions of other pollutants, to comply with “best available control technology” BACT emission standards for greenhouse gases. 

Capitol Hill Ideas logo

fter the Environmental Protection Agency finalizes rules on reducing carbon emissions in mid-2015, states will have a year to develop a plan for reduction.

The goal is to reduce the “pollution to power ratio of covered fossil fuel-fired power plants in a given state,” Janet McCabe, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in a blog post explaining the rules.

CSG Midwest logo
During the last year, residents of neighborhoods in Chicago and Detroit have had to deal with growing piles of petroleum coke, or petcoke. These piles were often left uncovered, allowing winds to disperse black dust into surrounding communities and nearby waterways.

Given the Supreme Court’s prominent role in deciding important issues of the day, it is easy to get caught up in the latest juicy Court mishap.  Justice Scalia erroneously depicted precedent in his dissent in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, which had to be corrected. But don’t let that be the reason you read this blog post.  This case is important for the states.

The Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision prohibits upwind states from emitting air pollution in amounts that will contribute significantly to downwind states failing to attain air quality standards.  In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation the Supreme Court resolved two issues related to the Good Neighbor Provision.  Justice Ginsburg wrote the 6-2 opinion.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft Five-Year Strategic Plan includes an emphasis on Next Generation Compliance, a model that focuses on achieving a higher rate of regulation compliance using advances in both emissions monitoring and information technology. A key component of that strategy shifts reporting responsibilities to industry, requiring companies, states and other entities to submit compliance data electronically. In this webinar, the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies convenes a group of experts to discuss how the new focus will affect the EPA's current enforcement approach; practical implications for state enforcement staff; changes in reporting requirements for states; and state implementation of new compliance technologies as well as the cost.

State officials are used to having questions about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the Clean Air Act. But local and state officials in Wyoming were not prepared to rehash 100-year-old boundaries when the EPA issued its decision to recognize the Wind River Indian Reservation as a separate state under the act. ...

On Sunday the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission created new air pollution rules for oil and gas drillers, including the nation’s first statewide limit on methane gas emissions. The decision was made with support from Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy, and Encana, some of Colorado’s largest oil and gas operators.

Below is an expanded version of the Top Five Energy and Environment issues to watch in 2014. 

CSG Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Brydon Ross outlines the top five issues for 2014, including upcoming Clean Air state implementation plans, EPA cooling water intake regulations, increased scrutiny on crude oil transportation safety, potential rate and policy disputes involving net metering, and lingering impacts that drought may pose for states and water infrastructure.  

Last term the Supreme Court heard two Clean Water Act case.  This term the Court has accepted two significant Clean Air Act (CAA) cases—one involving regulating upwind states who pollute downwind states and the other involving regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources.  Both cases involve states siding with or against the EPA and each other.  The Supreme Court agreed to hear the latter case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, earlier this month. 

Pages