Apr 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

A Supreme Court greenhouse gases petition worth watching

Illustration of the Earth inside of a balance scale.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading 19 states seeking Supreme Court review of the scope of EPA's authority over greenhouse gases.

Driving the news: The petition asks the high court to review January's appellate ruling that struck down a Trump-era rule on power plant CO2 emissions.

The big picture: The Trump rule adopted a narrow view of EPA's Clean Air Act authority that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected.

  • So if the high court accepts the case, it would set up an extremely high stakes legal battle before the court's 6-3 conservative majority.
  • "If EPA lacks such expansive authority, as we argue, the Supreme Court should make that clear now," Morrissey said in a statement alongside the petition from conservative-leaning states.

Why it matters: "The case, if granted, would be the biggest climate question to reach the Supreme Court in more than a decade," Bloomberg Law notes.

The intrigue: The Supreme Court takes just a tiny fraction of petitions. E&E News (subscription) reports that while this effort may face long odds, it’s a preview of challenges coming against Biden administration regulatory efforts around power plants.

Catch up fast: The high court's 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA gave EPA the power to regulate heat-trapping emissions.

  • It's unlikely the current court would overturn this recent precedent.
  • But legal observers say it could support significant constraints on federal regulators' running room under current law.
  • The new petition comes as the Biden administration plans wide-ranging climate initiatives.

Go deeper: The Supreme Court's coming rightward shift on climate

Go deeper