How Powerful Can the EPA Be?

Posted by Chris Stapleton.

On Monday February 28th, Supreme Court Justices argued with differing points of view regarding federal authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Conservative Justices which make up the majority of the Supreme Court are in favor of general rules to limit the regulatory power of the federal government. Meanwhile, liberal Justices believe that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current approach to the issue is effective and necessary. This case reached the Supreme Court after a lower court approved the EPA to regulate emissions using strategies that consider the effects the emissions have beyond the property lines of power plants. West Virginia took this decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the decision will result in administrative overreach and could be the first step in overregulation from the Biden Administration.

Conservative Justices questioned the limits on federal agencies as they relate to regulations. These ideas formed the “major-questions doctrine” which presumes that federal agencies can not make rules that impact large sectors of the economy without “explicit direction from Congress” (Bravin, Puko). In a sense, one side to the argument believes that federal agencies should not have the power to make regulations that could have such profound impacts on the economy. The other side believes the EPA is acting as it should in making regulation to protect the environment.

If the ruling from the court were to prevent the EPA from making this regulation, President Biden’s agenda on climate regulations would be detrimentally impacted. Biden must rely on EPA rules and regulations to reach targets to reduce emissions. President Biden must rely on new rules from the EPA because the currently divided Congress has failed to pass his $2 trillion spending proposal for social and climate issues. Limits on the regulation of federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency would cause a major halt in Biden’s plans to reduce emissions.

In my opinion, I think it is beneficial that this case has gone to the Supreme Court rather than simply allowing the EPA to make such an impactful regulation. While I do not have an opinion on whether the regulation should be implemented or not, I do not think a federal agency should have so much unchecked power to be able to make new rules that will have a large impact on the energy industry and other economic sectors. In this case, the agency’s power is being checked by the Judicial system, and depending on the result of the case, it will also be checked by Congress.

Chris is a sophomore, Finance Major, at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University.