SCOTUS EPA Decision a Setback for Obama Anti-Coal Agenda

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) lauded the decision stating in a press release the “Supreme Court ruling sends a strong signal to the EPA that it must stop ignoring the economic damage its regulations are causing to our energy sector and our economy,” adding, “This ruling is an important step to rein in this out-of-control agency.”


By Taylor Rose l July 15, 2015

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Despite the general doom and gloom that conservatives have felt over the recent SCOTUS decisions regarding ObamaCare, same-sex marriage and Voter ID, SCOTUS did throw economic patriots a bone by ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and protecting the American coal industry from further regulation.

The 5-4 ruling on Michigan v EPA dealt a blow to President Barrack Obama’s anti-coal agenda, declaring the EPA must consider compliance costs in determining limits on mercury and air toxins (MATS) emitted by coal-fired power plants according to the Clean Air Act of 2011.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, stated it is an established principle of law that bureaucracies must consider all “relevant factors” when enacting new regulations. In other words, the EPA or any federal regulatory agency does not have complete arbitrary power and they must consider the economic ramifications to their decisions.

Justice Clarence Thomas, also of the majority opinion, wrote, “agencies must operate within the bounds of reasonable interpretation,” when applying regulations on coal-fired plants.

Justice Thomas was alerted to the increasing arbitrary nature of how the EPA enacts regulations stating “Although we hold today that EPA exceeded even the extremely permissive limits on agency power set by our precedents, we should be alarmed that it felt sufficiently emboldened by those precedents to make the bid for deference that it did here.”

The case came to the Court in 2014, after the state of Michigan filed suit against the EPA, claiming the costs of regulation under the Clean Air Act of 2011 outweighed the benefits to coal-fired plants. Though States’ rights advocates may have lost some significant ground on the other major States’ rights decisions, the SCOTUS ruling against the EPA does prove that the States can stand their ground on environmental and industrial policy when they know they are in the right.

Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said the majority was “micromanaging” the EPA’s rulemaking authority and violating the authority that Congress has granted to the agency.

Despite the ruling, however, the EPA is refusing to consider any serious changes to its agenda. As reported by The Hill, Janet McCabe, head of the air pollution office at the EPA described the ruling as “very narrow” adding, “The decision does not affect the Clean Power Plan, which EPA will be finalizing later this summer and which will chart the course for this country to reduce harmful carbon from its fleet of existing power plants,” McCabe wrote in a Tuesday blog post, referring to the EPA’s proposed limits on carbon dioxide output from the power sector.

Similarly the Sierra Club and its anti-coal agenda “Beyond Coal” lamented what they perceive as the continued negative health results, yet, admitted “the Court may not have

Dealt a significant blow to public health, or granted much of a boon to polluters” thanks to the “narrow” application of the law.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) lauded the decision stating in a press release the “Supreme Court ruling sends a strong signal to the EPA that it must stop ignoring the economic damage its regulations are causing to our energy sector and our economy,” adding, “This ruling is an important step to rein in this out-of-control agency.”

Despite the positive step in the right direction for conservatives, the EPA’s public declaration that the SCOTUS ruling was very narrow indicates the battle over coal regulations and the war between the environmentalist Left and the coal industry is far from over.


Taylor Rose is a graduate of Liberty University with a B.A. in International Relations from the Helms School of Government. Fluent in English and German he has worked and studied throughout Europe specializing in American and European politics.  He is a prolific writer and author of the book Return of the Right an analysis on the revival of Conservatism in the United States and Europe. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.