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Supreme Court Considers Narrow GHG Case

Supreme court 3The Supreme Court today begins considering a narrow case that is unlikely to impinge much on the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon, according to observers on both sides of the regulatory debate.

At issue: whether the EPA’s regulation of vehicle greenhouse gas emissions automatically triggers a requirement that large stationary sources such as power plants also control their emissions, Dorsey & Whitney partner and former Department of Justice official Thomas Lorenzen says.

Jeffrey Holmstead, head of EPA air pollution programs under President George Bush and a critic of the agency’s GHG permitting, told NPR that the outcome of today’s case is unlikely to affect the agency’s larger abilities to regulate GHGs.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s Vickie Patton said, “This case is not about EPA’s authority to address climate pollution under the nation’s clean air laws.”

But Lorenzen says industry groups and states are pushing the court to expand its review, by “asking that the court revisit its 2007 holding that EPA may regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act, question EPA’s finding that GHG emissions are putting human health and welfare at risk, and overturn EPA’s attempts to ‘tailor’ its regulations to address only the largest sources of GHGs.”

Today’s arguments will shine some light on whether the court might accept any of these calls to broaden its review, Lorenzen says.

Takeaway: The scope of today’s Supreme Court GHG arguments is narrow – but there is a chance for a broader review of the EPA’s carbon regulations.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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