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Supreme Court decision reaffirms EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

21 Jun 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: Clean Air, Climate Change

The Supreme Court reaffirmed unanimously Monday that the EPA has the authority to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. 

In the American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut case, the Court ruled against the use of lawsuits, and instead specified that the EPA—not the federal courts—has the authority to enforce the Clean Air Act. The case arose when six states, New York City and several land trusts sued the Tennessee Valley Authority, American Electric Power Co., Duke Energy, Southern Co. and Xcel Energy to compel them to reduce their carbon pollution. 

“The critical point is that Congress delegated to EPA the decision whether and how to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants; the delegation displaces federal common law,” the decision reasons. 

The decision reaffirms a 2007 case—Massachusetts v. EPA—which ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if they posed a significant health threat. Altogether the utilities account for 10 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution each year.

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