Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to EPA Regulations

By:  Jack Kenny
02/21/2014
       
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to EPA Regulations

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency's application of limits on greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources such as power plants.

Arguments made in briefs submitted to the court include charges that the regulations, promulgated by the EPA as part of President Obama's campaign to combat climate change, amount to a usurpation of legislative power by the executive branch. The case pits industry groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the Obama administration and environmental groups, as well as blocs of state against one another in a litigators' civil war over whether the Obama administration is exceeding its constitutional authority by attempting to achieve, by executive orders and regulatory decrees, a program that Congress has refused to pass.

A brief filed by Texas and 12 other states called the EPA regulations "one of the most brazen power grabs ever attempted by an administrative agency," while a brief filed by New York and 14 other states said the agency's "gradual transition" to more comprehensive regulation was "a reasonable and temporary accommodation to certain practical implementation problems." Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), in a brief filed in support of plaintiffs, called the rules "an intolerable invasion of Congress's domain that threatens to obliterate the line dividing executive from legislative power," adding that they amounted to "perhaps the most audacious seizure of pure legislative power over domestic economic matters attempted by the executive branch" since President Harry Truman tried to seize the nation's steel mills during the Korean War, an effort overruled by the Supreme Court in 1952.

The case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, has come to the Supreme Court on appeal of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where a three-judge panel unanimously rejected the challenges. The full appeals court declined to hear the case, with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh dissenting. "The task of dealing withglobal warming is urgent and important," he wrote in his dissent, but legislating limits on emissions is a decision that belongs to Congress, he said. "The framers of the Constitution," wrote Judge Kavanaugh, "did not grant the executive branch the authority to set economic and social policy as it sees fit."

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Photo of U.S. Supreme Court building

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