WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s recent decision in West Virginia v. EPA limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to combat climate change through regulations. This was one of many significant rulings the court issued before adjourning for the summer. 

Most of Kentucky’s congressional delegation praised the Supreme Court’s decision.

What You Need To Know

  • A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling takes some power away from the Environmental Protection Agency

  • The 6-3 SCOTUS decision limits the EPA’s authority to combat climate change through regulations

  • Environmentalists have expressed disappointment but some lawmakers in Kentucky are praising the decision and what it could mean for the coal industry

  • This decision was specific to the EPA, but shows the court’s conservative majority is skeptical of the power regulatory agencies hold

The 6-3 decision limited the authority of the EPA to set standards for power-plant emissions. With coal-fired plants producing 20% of the nation’s electricity, it was a major victory for the coal industry. 

“If the agency wants to adopt that kind of ambitious regulation, then it’s going to have to provide very clear evidence that Congress intended to give it that authority,” said Robert Glicksman, an environmental law professor at George Washington University. 

This Supreme Court decision serves as a setback for the Biden administration’s plan to combat climate change. The White House is now left to find an approach that is consistent with the limits that the Supreme Court identified. 

“Ozone pollution has dramatic adverse effects on public health,” Glicksman said. “So putting constraints on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will have adverse public health effects and they’ll be seen across the nation.”

Many republican lawmakers praised this decision when it was released, including from Kentucky, which by some measures ranks fifth among all states in coal production. 

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the ruling, “frees Kentucky’s power producers to provide their customers with cheaper, more reliable electricity.” 

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, who represents much of coal-centered eastern Kentucky, said, “The Environmental Protection Agency was overstepping its boundaries, nearly regulating our coal industry out of business.” 

Glicksman said this decision won’t change the coal industry’s trajectory. 

“Many coal fire plants have closed recently and others are in line to close just because of the economics,” Glicksman said. “So I think we are going to continue to see a shift away from coal as a source of electric power regardless of this decision.” 

This decision was specific to the EPA, but shows the court’s conservative majority is skeptical of the power regulatory agencies hold and that could have implications for regulations in other areas beyond those protecting the environment.