“Clean Power Plan” Same Fate as Obama’s 2014 Greenhouse Gas Emissions – EPA Goes Beyond Clean Air Act into Lawmaking
(WASHINGTON, DC, June 30, 2022): The Supreme Court of the United States today issued a blockbuster 6-3 decision today invalidating the 2015 so-called “Clean Power Plan” as non-delegated overreach by an executive agency into the lawmaking arena (West Virginia et al., v. Environmental Protection Agency et al., No. 20-1530).
Southeastern Legal Foundation, which led a coalition in the successful 2014 Supreme Court challenge against the Obama EPA’s greenhouse-gas emissions plan (Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, 573 U.S. 302 (2014), joined as amicus in the Clean Power Plan appeals challenge. The Clean Power Plan was adopted in 2015 in the wake of the 2014 decision, but, as Kim Hermann, SLF general counsel, points out, “the Court gave every indication in 2014 that laws passed by Congress like the Clean Air Act do not lend themselves to the widest possible, costly and out-of-bounds regulation by regulatory agencies.”
Today’s decision marks another key check on runaway regulatory agency action, further eroding the power of the administrative state to “promulgate rules” that, in full force and effect, go far beyond the existing law. In this case, the EPA’s regulations triggered the “major questions doctrine” because the EPA was mandating “generation-shifting” in the types of fuels used to generate electricity and also “intrude[d] into an area that is particular to the state law,” including the EPA’s claim of power to force coal- and natural-gas fired power plants to “cease [operating] altogether.”
As Justice Gorsuch notes in his concurrence, joined by Justice Alito, “[Congress] has ‘conspicuously and repeatedly declined to adopt legislation similar to the Clean Power Plan,” further emphasizing the clear overreach by EPA bureaucrats to achieve policy aims that are simply not authorized by law.
“Unsurprisingly, the 2014 Supreme Court UARG greenhouse gas decision was cited multiple times in today’s decision,” said Hermann. “Administrations like Biden and Obama, frustrated by their inability to enact radical, sweeping legislation to manage the American power grid, homes and businesses, resort to regulatory rulemaking, like Obama’s “a pen and a phone,” to violate a key constitutional check on Executive authority. We must remain vigilant, because they will continue this tactic to the injury of the American people and our republic.”