You’re getting what you wanted, but watch your step. That was the gist of the message delivered by the Supreme Court to U.S. EPA yesterday, as the court ruled for the third time in seven years to affirm the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). In a ruling that split the justices 7-2, the court found that EPA can require certain permits and carbon-control technologies for the majority of stationary carbon-emitting sources in the United States — provided those requirements are triggered not by carbon dioxide alone, but by other, more conventional pollutants.
In announcing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday on U.S. EPA’s permitting for greenhouse gases, Justice Antonin Scalia — no friend of EPA — gave the agency a pat on the back. “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” the conservative justice said from the bench. And — Scalia could have added — that is pretty much how EPA has fared on every legal challenge so far to President Obama’s climate change agenda. The Supreme Court’s ruling closes the curtain on a string of lawsuits spanning several years that aimed to undermine EPA’s first attempts to restrict emissions that contribute to global warming.
New York and Rhode Island passed climate change bills last week to protect both coastal states against extreme weather events, although the fate of legislation in the Empire State is uncertain. The New York bill, called the “Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act” and sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, landed on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk after passing both chambers of the Legislature. It would force any state-funded project to plan for extreme weather events and the effects of climate change.
More than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed. Entire states in the Southeast and the Corn Belt may lose much of their agriculture as farming shifts northward in a warming world. Heat and humidity will probably grow so intense that spending time outside will become physically dangerous, throwing industries like construction and tourism into turmoil.
The Supreme Court ruling that limited some of U.S. EPA’s permitting program for greenhouse gases raised a big question: What does it mean for hot-button proposals for curbing heat-trapping emissions from power plants?
The decision handed down by a divided high court barely touched on the use of the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d), which EPA is using to regulate carbon from power plants. Written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the opinion specified in a footnote that it doesn’t decide whether the provision EPA has used for its new and existing power plant rules is “ill suited to accommodating greenhouse gases.”
In a big win for environmentalists, the Supreme Court on Monday effectively endorsed the Obama administration’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources like power plants, even as it criticized what it called the administration’s overreaching. The decision is one in a recent string of rulings upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue Clean Air Act regulations to curb climate change, and the agency celebrated the decision. But the combative tone of Monday’s ruling, along with its rejection of one of the agency’s principal rationales for the regulations under review, suggests that the road ahead may be rocky for other initiatives meant to reduce carbon emissions.
The project’s $500,000 cost is an afterthought for the multibillion-dollar company, but it is part of a larger trend of investment in what the industry has long considered its holy grail: a backup source of low-carbon energy from intermittent sources like wind and the sun. In part because of its fast-growing renewable energy sector, Texas has become a major testing ground for storage technology, which, while still decades away from grid-wide use because of its costs, is gaining attention as the technology improves.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants may not be the panacea for clean energy that environmentalists and industry advocates hoped for, with critics and others saying the new requirements are likely to spur only modest increases in renewable energy. Instead, environmentalists and other observers say the proposal could further incentivize the switch from coal to cheap natural gas and is unlikely to replace federal tax incentives and state renewable energy requirements as the main drivers behind the transition to alternative energy sources.
Minnesota Power, the state’s third-largest power company, is concerned that more than $800 million in wind power investments appear to be credited to North Dakota, where the wind farms were built, rather than to Minnesota, where the power is delivered. “We just don’t like the fact that Minnesota seems to have gotten very little credit for how much it accomplished,” said Dave McMillan, a senior vice president for the Duluth-based utility. “Our customers shouldn’t pay again while other states do less.”
Ohio made headlines last week after its governor, John Kasich (R), signed a bill into law making his state the first in the nation to freeze its renewable portfolio standard (ClimateWire, June 13). Green groups and some industries immediately fired back, saying the move could hamstring their markets and hinder state actions on future greenhouse gas standards from U.S. EPA. Much less attention was given to a separate bill, issued with little fanfare just before the state Legislature went into summer recess. Yet that bill, H.B. 483, may include an even greater challenge for renewable energy in Ohio than the RPS freeze, according to renewable energy advocates.