Supreme Court Decides that Federal Judges Shouldn't Regulate Greenhouse Gases


Six states had sued various electricity utility companies in federal court claiming that their emissions of carbon dioxide were a public nuisance. The states were asking federal judges to issue a decree capping carbon-dioxide emissions for each utility company which then would be further reduced annually. Yesterday, in an 8 to 0 ruling the Supreme Court declined [PDF] to allow federal judges to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The court ruled: 

The critical point is that Congress delegated to EPA the decision whether and how to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants; the delegation displaces federal common law….

The appropriate amount of regulation in a particular greenhouse gas-producing sector requires informed assessment of competing interests. The Clean Air Act entrusts such complex balancing to EPA in the first instance, in combination with state regulators. The expert agency is surely better equipped to do the job than federal judges, who lack the scientific, economic, and technological resources an agency can utilize in coping with issues of this order. The plaintiffs' proposal to have federal judges determine, in the first instance, what amount of carbon-dioxide emissions is "unreasonable" and what level of reduction is necessary cannot be reconciled with Congress' scheme.

Basically, this means that the action returns to Congress where the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is trying to figure out a way to prevent the EPA from going forward with its efforts to ration carbon dioxide