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Supreme Court Sides With W.Va. On Power Plant Emissions

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Courtesy of the Attorney General's office.
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Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

The U.S. Supreme Court has limited the federal government’s ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.

In a 6-3 decision Thursday, the final day of the court’s term, the court ruled in favor of West Virginia in a case against the Environmental Protection Agency.

The state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, sought to constrain the EPA from issuing broad regulations of power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act.

In a statement, Morrisey said such authority rested with lawmakers, rather than the agency.

“We are pleased this case returned the power to decide one of the major environmental issues of the day to the right place to decide it: the U.S. Congress, comprised of those elected by the people to serve the people,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also praised the decision.

“If Congress had intended to give EPA such sweeping authority to transform an entire sector of our economy, Congress would have done so explicitly,” she said in a statement.

The Biden administration was poised to issue new rules to decarbonize the electric power sector by 2035.

Still, the transition away from coal is well under way. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal accounts for 85 percent of the electric generating capacity scheduled to retire this year. Solar, wind and natural gas account for the majority of replacements.

In a statement, Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said the change in the electric power sector was driven by communities.

“Coal’s days are numbered, clean energy is the future, and we won’t let this backward-looking Supreme Court decision stand in our way,” he said.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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