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Energy & Environment

Supreme Court Hears West Virginia Case Challenging EPA Authority Over Power Plants

Amos Plant
Curtis Tate
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
The John Amos power plant in Putnam County, West Virginia, was saved from near-term closure by the state Public Service Commission.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in West Virginia v. EPA.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey brought the case, along with 17 other states, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act.

There currently is no regulatory framework in place to regulate power plant emissions. Plans offered by the past two administrations never took effect.

Morrisey said the case addresses a bigger question: Who should have that regulatory power?

“Once again, whatever your position is on the major question of climate change,” he said, “Congress needs to settle it as opposed to unaccountable agencies.”

James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University, said the case won’t change what’s already happening to coal plants.

“It’s called cheap natural gas. And now, it’s called cost-competitive renewable resources,” he said. “Those are major market forces. The EPA’s a distant fourth on the list of the reasons for the demise of the coal industry.”

The court will reach a decision by the end of June.

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