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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against EPA Overreach, Burdensome Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Contact: Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

June 23, 2014

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today praised a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down burdensome Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that would have imposed new permitting requirements on large manufacturing facilities and power plants.  The regulation would have ultimately required a multitude of smaller facilities, including hospitals, churches, schools, apartment buildings and retailers, to comply with complicated greenhouse gas emission permitting requirements.  The 5-4 ruling authored by Justice Antonin Scalia declared that the regulation exceeded the authority granted to the EPA by Congress and violated the federal Clean Air Act.

 "To achieve real economic recovery, we must cut burdensome regulations, not pile them on without regard to consequence," said Schuette.  "Today's ruling is a victory for the rule of law and the Constitution. We are a nation of laws, and unelected bureaucrats cannot simply run roughshod over those laws.  We will continue to hold the President and his administration accountable and rein in overreaching policies that harm citizens, states and our economy."      

The following excerpts from the ruling address the lack of Congressional authorization for the sweeping regulations:

"Since, as we hold above, the statute does not compel EPA's interpretation, it would patently unreasonable – not to say outrageous – for EPA to insist on seizing expansive power that it admits the statute is not designed to grant." (p. 20)

 "In the Tailoring Rule, EPA asserts newfound authority to regulate millions of small sources—including retail stores, offices, apartment buildings, shopping centers, schools, and churches—and to decide, on an ongoing basis and without regard for the thresholds prescribed by Congress, how many of those sources to regulate. We are not willing to stand on the dock and wave goodbye as EPA embarks on this multiyear voyage of discovery. We reaffirm the core administrative-law principle that an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate." (p. 23)

"Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution's separation of powers. Under our system of government, Congress makes laws and the President, acting at times through agencies like EPA, ‘faithfully execute[s]' them. The power of exe­cuting the laws necessarily includes both authority and responsibility to resolve some questions left open by Con­gress that arise during the law's administration. But it does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice." (p. 23)

 Case Background

In May 2010, Michigan joined Texas' challenge to the regulations in the case Coalition for Responsible Regulation v U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Michigan, Texas and 14 other states challenged EPA's original "endangerment finding" under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases from new cars endanger public health and welfare because they contribute to climate change.  The finding triggered the additional greenhouse gas regulations on "stationary sources" that the Supreme Court struck down today as not authorized by the Clean Air Act..

Schuette noted that although the first round of regulations applied only to larger facilities like power plants and oil refineries, a more significant problem was the potential impact on thousands of smaller facilities, including smaller manufacturing facilities, retail stores, hospitals, churches, schools, and residential facilities if the EPA lowered the regulation thresholds. 

Read the Supreme Court's ruling at this link: bit.ly/scotusepa.

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