There are currently nine petitions asking the Court to review the “EPA’s interpretation of both the Clean Air Act and the Supreme Court’s April 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA.” Marlo Lewis of CEI recently wrote in Forbes to explain the issue:
As the EPA reads the statute, “major” stationary sources – entities that emit 250 or 100 tons per year of a regulated air pollutant – must obtain permits from environmental agencies to construct or operate their facilities. Carbon dioxide became a regulated air pollutant when the EPA’s greenhouse gas motor vehicle standards took effect on Jan. 2, 2011.
Whereas only large industrial facilities emit 250 or even 100 tons of conventional air pollutants per year, literally millions of small, non-industrial facilities – office buildings, restaurants, schools – emit CO2 in those quantities. The EPA and its state counterparts suddenly faced the prospect of having to process 81,000 pre-construction permits annually (instead of 280) and 6.1 million operating permits annually (instead of 15,000).
That gigantic work load would overwhelm their administrative resources unless, the EPA estimated, agencies hire 320,000 additional full-time staff at a cost of $21 billion annually. Otherwise, ever-growing bottlenecks would paralyze environmental enforcement and freeze economic development. Both the application ofcomplex and costly permitting requirements to tens of thousands of non-industrial facilities and the quantum jump in taxpayer burden qualify as “extreme measures.”
With a barrage of legal briefs, a coalition of business groups and Republican-leaning states are taking their fight against Obama administration climate change regulations to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups, along with states such as Texas and Virginia, have filed nine petitions in recent weeks asking the justices to review four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
If the court were to take up any one of the petitions, it would be the biggest environmental case since Massachusetts v. EPA, the landmark 2007 decision in which the justices ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
The court’s decision on whether to take up any of the petitions, likely to come in October, could help shape or shatter the administration’s efforts to solidify its climate change agenda before President Obama leaves office in 2017.
The EPA regulations are among Obama’s most significant tools to address climate change after the U.S. Senate scuttled in 2010 his effort to pass a federal law that would, among other things, have set a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
The petitions give the court various options for cutting back on, or even overturning the 2007 ruling, according to John Dernbach, a law professor at Widener University in Pennsylvania, who represented climate scientists in the 2007 case.
If the court decides to hear any of the petitions, it “would be opening a really big can of worms,” he said.