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Supreme Court Weighs Republican-Led States and Energy Companies’ Challenge to EPA Ozone Regulation
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In a pivotal session, the U.S. Supreme Court delved into discussions on Wednesday regarding a challenge posed by three Republican-led states and multiple energy corporations against an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation targeting the reduction of ozone emissions. The regulation, part of the EPA’s “Good Neighbor” plan, aims to mitigate air pollution spillovers into neighboring states.

Conservative Justices Sympathetic to Blocking EPA Regulation

During the proceedings, conservative justices of the Supreme Court demonstrated a notable inclination towards supporting the plea of Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia, alongside pipeline operators like Kinder Morgan, power producers, and U.S. Steel Corp. Their objective is to forestall compliance with the EPA’s regulation, contesting its legal grounds in a lower court.

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Justices Express Concerns and Seek Clarity

Several justices raised apprehensions regarding the necessity of Supreme Court intervention at this juncture. They questioned the enforceability of the EPA rule against the challengers, particularly given that it currently applies to a reduced number of states—11 instead of the originally intended 23—due to legal actions in lower courts.

Key Concerns Raised by Conservative Justices

Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized uncertainties regarding the practical implications and viability of enforcing the regulation in fewer states. They pointed out the lack of clarity from the EPA regarding the substantial costs industries would incur for compliance.

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Supreme Court’s Response and Further Action

Despite emergency requests from the challengers to halt enforcement, the Supreme Court opted to hear arguments first, including an evaluation of the reasonableness of the emissions controls prescribed by the EPA rule.

Background and Context

The challenge builds upon a significant 2022 ruling, which limited the EPA’s authority to enact broad regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act.



Details of the EPA Rule and Current Litigation

The current dispute revolves around an EPA rule, finalized during President Joe Biden’s administration, targeting ozone regulation in upwind states. The EPA asserts that these states’ existing plans fail to meet the “Good Neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act, necessitating federal intervention.

Industry Response and Legal Arguments

Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia, along with various industry stakeholders, argue that the EPA’s actions violate federal law. Specific concerns were raised by companies like Kinder Morgan and U.S. Steel regarding the economic repercussions of compliance with the regulation.

Justices’ Scrutiny and Government Defense

Several justices, including both conservative and liberal members, probed the urgency of Supreme Court intervention and sought clarification on the financial implications of compliance. The Justice Department, representing the EPA, underscored the potential harm to downwind states if the regulation were to be blocked for the challengers.

Proposed Expansion of EPA Regulation

While the litigation unfolds, the EPA has proposed extending the “Good Neighbor” plan to five additional states, indicating a broader regulatory agenda shortly.

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