June 9, 2015

Here's What You Need to Know About Today's EPA Court Decision

Heath Knakmuhs

Today a three judge panel of the D.C. Circuit held that it would not preemptively stop EPA's proposed "Clean Power Plan" before it is finalized by the EPA.  But don't be fooled by those who will claim victory on this judicial decision:  today's decision did not rubberstamp the legality of EPA's attempt to remake America's electricity system.

What today's decision did do:  the court held that it was too soon for the petitioners to challenge the proposed rule. 

What today's decision did not do:  The court did not provide any comfort to EPA that its Clean Power Plan, as proposed, is legal or an appropriate extension of EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act. Instead, the court saved for a later date the critical legal questions about EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under a seldom-used part of the Clean Air Act.  The court did not find that any aspect of the EPA's redesign of the electric system is consistent with federal law or a reasonable interpretation of those laws by the EPA.  Quite simply, these arguments must wait to be adjudicated another day - a day that will come relatively soon, assuming that the EPA sticks to its most recent timeline for issuing a final version of its Clean Power Plan.

In sum, the court did not make news today.  Given that EPA's carbon rules are expected to be final within the coming months, today's order is a speed bump on the road to the ultimate resolution of the legality of EPA's far-reaching carbon regulations.