The Supreme Court largely left intact today the Obama administration's only existing program to limit power plant and factory emissions of the gases blamed for global warming. But a divided court also rebuked environmental regulators for taking too much authority into their own hands without congressional approval. The justices said in a 5-4 vote along ideological lines that the EPA cannot apply a permitting provision of the Clean Air Act to new and expanded power plants, refineries, and factories solely because they emit greenhouse gases.
"The Supreme Court put EPA on a leash but not in a noose," said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University's Center for Climate Change Law. "The court invalidated a small corner of a secondary program. The main event—EPA's proposed rules on existing power plants—remains to be fought another day." The EPA and many environmental advocates said the ruling would not affect the agency's proposals for first-time national standards for new and existing power plants. The most recent proposal aims at a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 2030, but won't take effect for at least another two years. But by a wider, 7-2 margin, the court preserved EPA's authority over facilities that already emit pollutants that the agency regulates, other than greenhouse gases. "EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case," Scalia said. He said the agency wanted to regulate 86% of all greenhouse gases emitted from plants nationwide, and it will it be able to regulate 83% of the emissions under the ruling. Click for much more. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)