Energy & Environment — What else can the EPA do about power plants?

Today we look at some of the tools the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still has at its disposal after last week’s Supreme Court ruling and a separate court ruling seeking to restore species protections. endangered.

It’s the night of energy and the environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we are Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Did someone forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

EPA still has climate tools despite SCOTUS shutdown

A Supreme Court ruling on Thursday significantly curtailed the EPA’s power to restrict emissions from power plants under a 2015 rule, but the agency still retains other tools to reduce emissions.

  • In the 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. EPA, the court’s conservative majority found that the EPA lacked the authority to enforce an Obama-era power plant rule without specific congressional approval.
  • Although the ruling prohibits this specific approach without lawmakers’ approval, the agency still has its broader authority to regulate power plant outputs to reduce emissions under the Clean Air Act.
  • The problem, from the perspective of those who want the EPA to reduce emissions, is that in most cases, alternative methods of regulation are less effective and more expensive in a political and regulatory environment where every second counts.

As a result of the decision, the EPA has many of the same arrows in its quiver as before to tackle pollutants from power plants, but “the tools available to the EPA are likely inadequate,” said Michael Herz, a professor. at the Cardozo School of Law.

Like what? An alternative to generational switching, the approach rejected by the Supreme Court, is co-firing, or burning two types of fuels at the same time, which can create a more environmentally friendly product in an existing plant. .

“Depending on the level of co-combustion you assume, you could still get quite large emission reductions from this approach,” Lienke said.

He cited Resources for the Future’s 2021 modeling, which indicates that the co-firing approach could be an effective way to reduce emissions, but “almost certainly not as cost effective as generational switching”, he said. he adds.

  • Another possible approach is carbon capture and sequestration, whereby carbon emissions are stored and contained before they can enter the atmosphere.
  • However, the surest way to bolster the EPA’s authority would be “legislation, appropriate, adequate and serious legislation,” Herz told The Hill.

Learn more here.


The Supreme Court’s decision to limit the EPA’s power could hurt Democrats’ long-running battle to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules.

If the same principle is applied from the majority opinion in Thursday’s case, arguing that Congress must grant clear authorization for certain regulations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may not be able to reinstate the rules. prohibiting service providers from blocking or throttling websites.

  • “There’s a big shift of power from the agencies to the courts,” said New Street Research policy adviser Blair Levin, who served as chief of staff to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.
  • Levin and other experts say the decision was drafted in a way that opens the door to the potential reversal of FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulatory rulings in court.

A summary : At the heart of the problem is the Conservative majority, which bases its 6-3 decision on a legal philosophy called the “major issues doctrine.” The principle means that proposed rules can be challenged on the basis that the rule is a “major matter” that only Congress should be able to address.

“There’s no way to water it down and say it’s good news for the [Federal Trade Commission] or the FCC. Or any type of regulatory action,” said Matt Wood, vice president of policy and general counsel at Free Press.

Learn more about Rebecca Klar from The Hill.

A judge restores the protection of endangered species

A federal court on Tuesday reinstated endangered species protections that had been relaxed under the Trump administration.

Obama-appointed Judge Jon Tigar struck down the rules.

So what did these rules do? Under Trump’s rules, the Fish and Wildlife Service no longer offered the same protections for species considered threatened — those that are likely to become endangered — as for endangered species.

  • The rules would also have made it possible to take economic impacts into account when deciding whether or not to protect a species. Environmental advocates have further raised concerns that the rules could limit consideration of climate change.
  • The Trump administration’s changes have met with significant resistance from environmentalists, who have filed the lawsuit.

“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species that are on the brink of extinction,” Kristen Boyles, attorney at Earthjustice, told The Hill.

“The Trump rules that were repealed today did nothing to help species and in fact hurt the way species are protected in this country,” Boyles added. “By today’s court decision, we revert to the regulatory interpretation that was in place for over 40 years.”

The Trump administration said when it finalized the changes that it “relieved the regulatory burden on the American public.”

Legal weeds: Last year, the Biden administration asked the court to order a second review of the Trump rules, but did not ask the court to strike down the amended rules in the meantime.

  • He said getting rid of the Trump rules while he re-evaluates them would “sow confusion … by abruptly changing the applicable regulatory framework and creating uncertainty about what standards should apply.”

Nonetheless, in the case, Tigar argued that since the Biden administration has indicated it will reassess the regulations, it “seems doubtful” that getting rid of them altogether would add to the confusion.

Read more about the decision here.


The White House and Amazon grounded Jeff Bezos on Twitter over gas prices this weekend.

President Biden, in a common refrain, called on the industry to “lower the price you charge at the pump.”

In response, Bezos tweeted, “Inflation is far too big an issue for the White House to continue making statements like this,” adding that it may reflect “a deep misunderstanding of fundamental market dynamics.”

Publicist Karine Jean-Pierre responded, writing, “It’s no surprise you think oil and gas companies using market power to reap record profits at the expense of the American people is the way our economy is supposed to work.”


  • California oil inspectors balk at quotas, say in-person reviews are neglected (The Desert Sun)
  • Russia set to cut gas for work on key pipeline – and Germany fears the worst (CNBC)
  • Shippers still willing to touch Russian crude are cashing in (Bloomberg)
  • As Lake Mead’s water recedes, theories emerge about the identity of the human remains found in the barrel – and possible ties to the mob (CBS)
  • Methane much more sensitive to global warming than previously thought – study (The Guardian)


  • Kemp extends Georgia state gas tax pause through August
  • Ahead of July 4, Democrats frustrated with Biden’s gas tax vacation campaign

And finally, something quirky and quirky: Good things come in threes.

That’s all for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy and Environment page for the latest news and coverage. Well see you tomorrow.