High court climate case examines EPA's power
WASHINGTON — Industry groups and Republican-led states are heading an attack at the Supreme Court against the Obama administration's sole means of trying to limit power-plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.
As President Obama pledges to act on environmental and other matters when Congress doesn't, or won't, opponents of regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases cast the rule as a power grab of historic proportions.
The court is hearing arguments on Monday about a small but important piece of the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to cut the emissions — a requirement that companies expanding industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must also evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release.
Environmental groups and some of their opponents say that whatever the court decides, EPA will be able to move forward with broader plans to set emission standards for greenhouse gases for new and existing power plants.
But a court ruling against EPA almost undoubtedly would be used to challenge every step of the agency's effort to deal with climate change, said Jacob Hollinger, a partner with the McDermott Will and Emery law firm in New York and a former EPA lawyer.
“Will they be successful? We don't know yet,” Hollinger said. “But it would be an important victory in a political sense and, potentially, a practical sense.”
Republicans have objected strenuously to the administration's decision to push ahead with the regulations after Congress failed to pass climate legislation, and after the administration of President George W. Bush resisted such steps.
Both sides agree that it would have been better to deal with climate change through legislation than regulation.
In 2012, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA was “unambiguously correct” in using existing federal law to address global warming.
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