The Supreme Court can take advantage of an important environmental regulation case to slap the Obama administration for yet again freelancing the rule of law.
Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA concerns whether the Environmental Protection Agency is exceeding its authority by trying to regulate so-called “greenhouse gases” from stationary sources — mainly power plants and factories. The agency wants to expand upon its authority — upheld in 2007's Massachusetts v. EPA — to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and to regulate vehicle emissions.
Never mind that the Clean Air Act doesn't address CO2 and specifies annual stationary emissions of 100 or 250 tons of other pollutants as thresholds for requiring permits. Applied to vastly greater CO2 emissions, those thresholds would make permits necessary for 6 million stationary sources — including schools, hospitals, office and apartment buildings and even large homes. So, the EPA seeks to rewrite the Clean Air Act by arbitrarily setting the CO2 permitting threshold at 75,000 or 100,000 tons.
Monday's oral arguments suggested the justices might allow the EPA to regulate carbon emissions only from stationary sources already subject to permitting for other pollutants. But even that outcome would give King Obama too much leeway to continue ruling by decree.
What's needed is an unambiguous decision that upholds the rule of law and the letter of the Clean Air Act — and declares unequivocally that the EPA is exceeding its authority.
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