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U.S. Supreme Court upends Biden climate agenda By Reuters

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U.S. Supreme Court upends Biden climate agenda By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The American flag is flown at half mast in front of the cooling towers of the coal-fired power plant at Duke Energy’s Crystal River Energy Complex in Crystal River, Florida, U.S., March 26, 2021.Reuters/Dain Reese

Valerie Walkowicz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a blow to President Joe Biden’s plans to tackle climate change, with a ruling that limited the power of the nation’s top environmental regulator to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

The conservative court’s 6-3 ruling limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal and gas-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act anti-pollution law.

The ruling is based on the so-called “significant issues” legal doctrine, which requires Congress to expressly authorize action on issues of broad importance and societal impact.

“The EPA has entered a new era of inappropriate regulatory action,” said Leif Fredrickson of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, an organization that tracks environmental agencies.

White House spokesman Abdullah Abdullah said: “While the court’s ruling has the potential to undermine our ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, President Biden will not ease up on using his lawful authority to protect public health and address the climate change crisis. .” Hassan.

Democrat Joe Biden’s goal is to cut power sector emissions to net zero by 2035. Biden’s EPA is currently working on a new proposal to address emissions from power plants, expected next spring.

There are currently no effective regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, which are responsible for about a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama-era clean energy plan was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, and a narrower alternative enacted by Republican former President Donald Trump’s administration was rejected by a federal appeals court in 2021.

Carbon emissions from the industry have fallen in recent years as coal-fired power plants are decommissioned and replaced by cleaner-burning plants and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. But without regulation, the prospects for further coal decommissioning remain uncertain.

“It was a lifeline for expanding coal use,” wrote Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental and administrative law at Harvard. “As the court protected the industry with this ruling, the transition to clean energy is likely to happen more slowly.”

In the absence of direct regulation, options for a Biden administration to address electricity sector emissions include seeking legislation in Congress — a tough proposition given its partisan divisions — or indirectly regulating greenhouse gases as other air pollutants or water pollutants Rules for the common good – this is a step that could face serious legal challenges.

“The overall importance of this case is clear. EPA and other agencies need clear mandates to address major issues with far-reaching economic impact,” said Jeff Holmstead, former EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation and partner at law firm Braithway you.

Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former EPA enforcement chief, said the Supreme Court’s ruling would force “EPA back to the drawing board.”

He said the agency could eventually seek power plants with strict standards for other pollutants, requiring expensive retrofits that could hasten the closure of older coal plants.

The decision does give the EPA the power to impose certain levels of “emission limits.”

International reputation

The United States is second only to China in greenhouse gas emissions and is a key player in the global effort to combat climate change.

But without a clear plan to address emissions from the power sector, a Biden administration could face a credibility crisis on the global stage as it tries to rally the international community’s ambitions to fight global warming.

Biden’s climate credentials have taken a hit in recent months as his administration seeks to expand LNG exports to help Europe reduce its reliance on Russian supplies and calls on the oil industry to ramp up output to ease soaring consumer energy costs. .

Yamide Dagnet, director of climate justice at the Open Society Foundation and a former UK and EU climate negotiator, said: “The US failure to meet its emissions reduction targets will only add to the pressure for a softening of its stance on fossil fuels.”

Karen Sokol, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, agreed: “The agency will have to grapple with carbon and confront carbon emissions head on, which is really the only meaningful way to address the climate crisis.”

The EPA said in a statement that it was reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision.

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