Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Environment and the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court decided two important cases recently that have environmentalists exaltant. The article in the NYT...

In Massachusetts vs Environmental Protection Agency, (read the text of the ruling) the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the right and obligation to regulate greenhouse gasses (GHG). A coalition of states sued to force the EPA to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHG. The dissenting opinion (John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito) largely centered around the states' right to sue. Scalia and now Roberts have led the charge to make it harder and harder to sue the government.

The Supreme Court also ruled with environmentalists concerning application of the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act. The New Source Review applies new and more stringent pollution control rules only to new sources of pollution. Existing sources were grandfathered under the rule and only had to comply with the newer pollution control rules if significant modifications were made. Duke Energy modified some of their coal-fired power plants allowing them to operate at the same level as before but for longer throughout the year. Duke held that since output per hour of operation was the same the modifications were not enough to trigger compliance. The Supreme Court sided with environmentalists stating that annual output is a better measure of whether a modification is significant or not.

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