“Supreme Court Curbs EPA Overreach”
By Henry W. Burke

A judge 's gavel sitting on top of papers.

The Supreme Court decision on the EPA was one of the most important rulings that the high court has issued. The other crucial ruling was the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

On June 30, 2022, the U. S. Supreme Court strongly limited the EPA’s powers to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In a 6-3 decision, the high court ruled against the federal government in the case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.

More broadly, the high court’s decision sends a message to all executive branch agencies that they cannot rule by executive fiat. Our founding fathers wisely wrote a Constitution which calls for the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. If a federal agency wants to expand its authority, it must seek legislation to do so.

This Supreme Court ruling has major ramifications beyond the EPA. It will serve as a significant check on federal bureaucratic power. The high court has placed the administrative state on notice that it must pass the desired legislation through Congress before imposing it on the country. The legislative branch of government cannot delegate its power to the executive branch.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s majority opinion in the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency case (court file 20-1530). Roberts was joined by the court’s other five conservatives. He wrote:

While “capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Roberts wrote, quoting a 1992 precedent, “it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d)” of the Clean Air Act.
“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” he wrote. -- https://www.theepochtimes.com/republicans-applaud-scotus-epa-decision-as-victory-over-bureaucracy-democrats-make-dire-predictions_4569557.html?utm_source=ai&utm_medium=search

Justice Neil Gorsuch authored a concurring opinion in the case, where he stated:

The framers believed that the power to make new laws regulating private conduct was a grave one that could, if not properly checked, pose a serious threat to individual liberty…. As a result, the framers deliberately sought to make lawmaking difficult by insisting that two houses of Congress must agree to any new law and the President must concur or a legislative supermajority must override his veto. --https://brownstone.org/articles/the-mighty-gorsuch-vs-the-administrative-state-quotes-from-west-virginia-vs-epa/

The Clean Air Act was originally enacted in 1967 and later amended. The most recent amendments were passed in 1990 (32 years ago). The Clean Air Act, as amended, allows the federal government to regulate the major air pollutants. These include: sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOC), ozone (O3), and lead (Pb). (Because carbon dioxide (CO2) is not an air pollutant, the EPA cannot control it.)

The National Air Pollution Control Administration (NAPCA) was created to oversee air pollution at the federal level. In 1970, NAPCA was integrated into the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [I was employed as a Senior Sanitary Engineer in NAPCA from 1968 – 1970.]

The high court’s ruling begins with this statement:

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated the Clean Power Plan rule, which addressed carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants. -- https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/20-1530_n758.pdf

The Obama Administration used the Clean Power Plan to circumvent Congress to control carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. Under the guise of preventing man-made global warming, Obama’s EPA overstepped its authority in the air pollution area. Because the environmentalists could not determine whether the earth was warming or cooling, they conceived the term “climate change.” Instead of seeking legislation, Obama’s EPA simply issued new rules governing power plants.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the EPA must ask Congress for permission to regulate carbon dioxide emissions in the future. If the Biden Administration wants to enact its green agenda, it must pass the legislation through Congress.

This high court ruling should signal that the days of executive branch overreach are over! According to the non-delegation doctrine, the legislative branch of government cannot delegate its power to the executive branch.