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Supreme Court agrees to consider EPA's authority to limit greenhouse gases

The legal challenge comes from coal companies and energy-producing states, led by West Virginia.
Image: Supreme Court building exterior
The US Supreme Court building, on Sept. 19, 2020.Samuel Corum / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Friday it will consider whether one of the federal government's plans for reducing greenhouse gases goes too far.

The court agreed to take up a challenge from coal companies and energy-producing states, led by West Virginia, that say the Environmental Protection Agency was exceeding its authority to limit carbon emissions. They're appealing a lower court's ruling that restored some of the EPA's authority after the Trump administration dialed it back.

Congress did not give the EPA the authority the agency claims to have, which could include carbon restrictions that are impossible for power plants that burn coal and natural gas, their lawsuits say. They say a ruling for the EPA could unduly restrict other sources of greenhouse gases.

"Power to regulate factories, hospitals, hotels, and even homes would have tremendous costs and consequences for all Americans," they told the Supreme Court.

The case involves a provision of the Clean Air act requiring the EPA to identify the “best system of emission reduction” for existing pollution sources and work with states to formulate pollution control plans.

The Biden administration urged the court not to hear the appeal. It said the EPA is in in the process of coming up with a new rule on carbon dioxide emissions. "As part of that upcoming rulemaking, EPA will take a fresh look at the scope of its authority."

A Supreme Court decision could complicate the administration's efforts to impose tougher emission regulations as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, by moving electricity production away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.

The court will likely hear the case in the spring with the decision by late June.