A Step by Step Look at UARG v. EPA: A New Layer of Greenhouse Gas Regulation
4 Environmental & Earth Law Journal 3 (2014)
67 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 22, 2015
Hailed by many as the most important environmental law decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA held that greenhouse gases (GHGs) are “air pollutants” that the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can regulate under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). This groundbreaking conclusion soon led EPA to promulgate a series of related GHG regulations to address climate change. The cascading effect of the Supreme Court’s holding in Massachusetts that GHGs were covered by the Clean Air Act, however, remained to be seen.
One pivotal question was whether EPA’s post-Massachusetts promulgation of GHG emission standards for new motor-vehicles, in turn, required EPA to also regulate certain stationary sources of GHG emissions, such as power plants, industrial sources, as well as even smaller non-industrial sources, like small businesses and apartment buildings. And if the CAA did not compel EPA to regulate these sources, was EPA allowed to do so as a matter of its discretion under the CAA?
The Supreme Court, however, in UARG v. EPA has now resolved many of these questions that lingered in the wake of the Massachusetts v. EPA decision. Accordingly, this Article examines the very recent case of UARG v. EPA, which was decided by the Court in June of 2014.
It first gives a very brief background on greenhouse gases and climate change, as well as sets forth the provisions of the federal Clean Air Act at issue. The Article then summarizes the Supreme Court’s foundational holding in Massachusetts v. EPA that EPA has the authority to regulate GHGs under the CAA to address climate change. Next, it addresses the key challenge to EPA’s post-Massachusetts authority to regulate GHGs by exploring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, where the court rejected various petitioners’ attempts to derail EPA’s ambitious and creative plan to cut GHGs emissions from both mobile and stationary sources.
The Article then details the Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in UARG v. EPA. Specifically, it examines Justice Scalia’s opinion on behalf of a majority of the Court; Justice Breyer’s opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part; and Justice Alito’s opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Finally, the last section of the Article then analyzes the potential impact of the Court’s opinions, concluding that the decision is an important step forward in developing comprehensive greenhouse gas regulation.
Keywords: environmental law, climate change, EPA, UARG
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation