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Supreme Court to Hear Case Concerning EPA’s Power to Limit Carbon Emissions
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Supreme Court to Hear Case Concerning EPA’s Power to Limit Carbon Emissions


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear appeals from Republican-led states and coal companies asking it to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“This is the equivalent of an earthquake around the country for those who care deeply about the climate issue,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard.

The court’s decision to take the case came days before President Biden is to attend a global climate summit in Scotland where he seeks to reassure other nations that the United States will continue to pursue aggressive policiesTo combat global warming

In January, on the last full day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, a federal appeals court in Washington struck down his administration’s plan to relax restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. This allowed the Biden administration’s to issue more restrictive restrictions.

A divided three-judge panel of the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruled that the Trump administration’s plan, called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, was based on a “fundamental misconstruction” of the relevant law, prompted by a “tortured series of misreadings.”

The Clean Power Plan, a 2015 Obama-era regulation that would have required utilities to shift away from coal in order to reduce their carbon emissions, was not reinstated by the panel. But it rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal and replace that rule with what critics said was a toothless one.

The Obama-era plan aimed to reduce power sector emissions by 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. It required every state to create plans to eliminate carbon emissions from power stations by phasing out the use of coal and increasing generation of renewable energy.

The measure was never implemented. It was. blocked in 2016 by the Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court ruled that states didn’t have to comply with the directive until a barrage from lawsuits brought by conservative states and the coal sector had been resolved. That ruling, followed by changes in the Supreme Court’s membership that have moved it to the right, has made environmental groups wary of what the court might do in cases on climate change.

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s election, his E.P.A. The Clean Power Plan was repealed.

Professor Lazarus said the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case threatened “to sharply cut back, if not eliminate altogether, the new administration’s ability to use the Clean Air Act to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants.”

Groups supporting industry welcomed the court’s decision to grant review.

“The Supreme Court will be reconsidering E.P.A.’s massive claims of authority to redesign entire industries rather than merely requiring improved technology,” said Devin Watkins, a lawyer with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that opposes most environmental regulation. “This is excellent news because the agency lacks such massive power under the law.”

The Biden administration urged the justices not to hear the case, saying the court should wait for the administration to issue its own regulations “after taking into account all relevant considerations, including changes to the electricity sector that have occurred during the last several years.”

The states and companies on the other side, the administration’s brief said, “urge this court to grant review now to help guide the upcoming rule-making, but that is little more than a request for an impermissible advisory opinion.”

A brief filed by West VirginiaMore than a dozen states also urged the justices not to delay.

“How we respond to climate change is a pressing issue for our nation, yet some of the paths forward carry serious and disproportionate costs for states and countless other affected parties,” the brief said. “Continued uncertainty over the scope of E.P.A.’s authority will impose costs we can never recoup because E.P.A., the state, and others will be forced to sink even more years and resources into an enterprise that is — at best — legally uncertain. The court should intervene now.”

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