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Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Supreme Court rules Clean Air Act doesn't apply to power plants

If you're a power plant operator, last week's news of West Virginia v. EPA might've had you rejoicing. If you're a climate activist, it might've had you crying.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA doesn't have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — an industry making up nearly a quarter of the nation's emissions. Here's an excerpt from the source text:

"No doubt the majority is right that scrubbers and other “add-on controls” are “more traditional air pollution control measures...EPA readily acknowledged that fact in developing the Clean Power Plan. But the idea that the Plan’s reliance on generation shifting effected some kind of revolution in power-plant pollution control? No. As I’ve noted before, power plants themselves use that method. State environmental regulators use that method. And EPA has used that method, including under the statutory provision invoked here."

The 6-3 decision by the high court restricts the EPA's authority to mandate carbon emissions reductions coming from power plants. Early reception by the press and environmental advocates paints an even darker picture, long term, with many condemning the decision as a severe misstep in the fight against climate change.

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