The Inflation Reduction Act does not circumvent the Supreme Court’s climate decision in West Virginia v. EPA, but it builds EPA’s future capabilities

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(The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) The new Cut Inflation Act is rightly celebrated as the most important federal legislation to address the climate crisis yet. It includes around $370 billion in incentives for everything from solar panels to electric vehicles.

But there is some confusion around what this allows the Environmental Protection Agency to do.

Comments from politicians on both sides of the aisle suggested the new law could overturn a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the court’s conservative majority shackled the EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions. greenhouse gases from power plants.

The new law amends the Clean Air Act – the main national air quality law – to define several greenhouse gases as air pollutants. This will therefore help the EPA in planning future regulations. But it doesn’t specifically grant the EPA new authority to regulate power plants.

So, revolutionary as it is, the Inflation Reduction Act does not alter the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA that the EPA does not have the authority to require a systematic shift to cleaner sources of electricity generation.

Why the ruling remains a hurdle for the EPA

The court case concerned the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a policy that would have required power generators to use cleaner forms of electricity, but which never took effect.

Writing for the court in West Virginia v. EPA, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the EPA was asserting broad new authority under a little-used provision of the Clean Air Act without being explicitly authorized by Congress to do so. .

In what has come to be known as the “major issues doctrine,” the Court has taken a stricter approach to how it interprets statutes that gives far less deference to the views of experts from federal agencies tasked with implementing complex and dynamic regulatory programs designed to protect public health and safety. This accurately describes the challenge of dealing with carbon pollution and the profound impacts it is already having around the world.

Roberts clarified that Congress could choose to pass more detailed legislation giving the EPA authority at the heart of the matter if it so chooses.

The Inflation Reduction Act amends the Clean Air Act to add seven specific new programs to reduce greenhouse gases and provide funding for states to develop their own plans. Taken together, these provisions go a long way to addressing Roberts’ concern that Congress has not spoken clearly enough about the EPA’s authority to address climate change.

But that doesn’t give the EPA the power to revive the Clean Power Plan’s generation transfer approach.

To push the bill through the sharply divided Congress, the Democratic majority in the Senate used a process called budget reconciliation. This process allows legislation to be passed with only a simple majority of votes. But legislation passed in this way must be tied closely to spending, revenue and the federal debt ceiling — it cannot set general national policy.

What the New Law Does for EPA Authority

While the Inflation Reduction Act cannot undo what the Supreme Court has done, it does strengthen the EPA’s ability to take stronger action under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gases.

The law not only provides substantial increases to the EPA budget in a wide range of air pollution programs, but also, for the first time, explicitly defines greenhouse gases to include six specific gases that the EPA determined in 2009 to pose a risk to public health and well-being. This 2009 “endangerment finding” was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2014 case Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA.

As Senator Tom Carper, one of the main architects of the Cut Inflation Act, put it, “The wording makes it pretty clear that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Inflation Act. air quality”.

Of course, nothing in life or in litigation is certain.

Challenges can be expected for upcoming EPA rules replacing the Clean Power Plan, regulating methane emissions from oil and gas operations, tightening exhaust emissions and fuel economy standards, etc. . But at least now there is clear legislative direction from Congress for the EPA to take the bold steps needed to address the profound challenge of climate change and the transition to a sustainable economy.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/the-inflation-reduction-act-doesnt-get-around-the-supreme-courts-climate-ruling-in-west-virginia-v-epa-but-it-does-strengthen- epas-future-skills-189279.


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