The Supreme Court will review whether the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority to combat global warming by attempting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and factories.
The justices decided Tuesday to hear challenges from industry groups and several Republican-led states after a unanimous federal appeals court ruled that the Obama administration had the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases from “stationary sources.”
The case is seen as a follow-up to the court’s 2007 decision that said the EPA had the authority to regulate automobile emissions as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The question is whether that ruling means the agency’s authority extends to regulating emissions from other sources.
The court accepted six of the nine petitions it received, but did so in a way that both environmentalists and industry groups portrayed as a victory. The court accepted only a narrow question about power plants and other sources. It did not indicate that it would review the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases or the 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA.
“Today’s orders by the U.S. Supreme Court make it abundantly clear, once and for all, that EPA has the both legal authority and the responsibility to address climate change and the carbon pollution that causes it,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the court had confirmed her agency’s authority to reduce carbon pollution. “The court did not question the science or the fact that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare and is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act,” she said, adding that the decision did not affect the EPA’s power to address carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.
Harry Ng, the American Petroleum Institute’s vice president and general counsel, said the decision shows an openness to the argument that “the EPA is seeking to regulate U.S. manufacturing in a way that Congress never planned and never intended.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who filed one of the petitions the court accepted, said, “We are pleased the Obama administration will have to defend its lawless regulations before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In other action Tuesday, the justices turned down a chance to review Maryland’s tough restrictions on carrying handguns in public places. A federal appeals court this year upheld a key provision of the state’s gun-control laws, maintaining the strict rules.
Maryland requires those seeking a permit to carry a gun to have a “good and substantial reason.” Raymond Woollard and the Second Amendment Foundation said the law violates the Second Amendment.
Woollard got such a permit in 2002 after a break-in at his Baltimore County home. But when he tried to renew it in 2009, state officials said he did not show that he had a need.
A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned a lower-court ruling that found the state’s permitting system at odds with the right to bear arms.
In a 33-page opinion, Judge Robert B. King wrote that the state “clearly demonstrated” that such a requirement “advances the objectives of protecting public safety and preventing crime because it reduces the number of handguns carried in public.”
Also Tuesday, the justices said they would decide whether a Virginia man who bought a gun and sold it to his uncle in Pennsylvania should have been convicted of being a “straw purchaser.”
Bruce James Abramski Jr., a former police officer who received a better price on the gun, said the law should not apply to him because both he and his uncle were legally allowed to own guns.