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Supreme Court limits the EPA’s authority to curb power plant emissions

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Keenan reports on the Supreme Court’s decision to limit the authority of the EPA in regulating power plant greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Video transcript

- Well, we just had the last of the Supreme Court's decisions in its recent session here. And it was a blow to President Joe Biden's climate change agenda following SCOTUS's ruling to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to curb greenhouse gases from power plants. Our correspondent Alexis Keenan is covering this for us. So Alexis, what is this ruling? And what's its significance?

ALEXIS KEENAN: Hi, Julie. Huge significance here in this 6-3 ruling in favor of 18 Republican-led states, along with Mississippi's governor and a couple of coal companies, against the EPA. Now, here the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has limited authority to limit carbon emissions for existing power plants.

The states were led by West Virginia. They argued that those restraints that were attempted to be applied by the EPA, that those really threatened their economies and go far beyond the power that was delegated to the EPA by Congress. So this case is about specifically the extent to which the EPA can regulate power plant emissions without really an explicit mandate from Congress. But it's also unusual in that right now there are no specific requirements for regulation of these power plants.

So in a way, the Supreme Court is kind of preempting and saying how much authority this regulatory agency can have, even though there are no real rules specifically on the books. Now, at issue is the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that required a shift from fossil fuels more towards sustainable energy production like solar and wind. That was replaced by a Trump-era rule called the Affordable Clean Energy rule. But that's the one that the DC court vacated and gave rise to this lawsuit here.

Still more broadly, though, this case is definitely a mandate on the extent to which federal agencies can regulate and whether they can take action without specific directions and mandates from Congress. The decision is expected, as you said, to frustrate the Biden administration and, really, global ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Biden has said that the goal of the US would be to decarbonize the electric grid by 2035 for the United States. So, really, those ambitious plans potentially curbed here. Just really big win here for conservative states and states like West Virginia, like Wyoming that are the nation's biggest coal producers. Julie.

- Alexis Keenan, thanks so much.