Albany, N.Y. (July 1, 2022) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s authority to set climate standards for power plants. 

The court’s 6-3 ruling – which addressed an Obama-era regulation aimed at coal-fired power plants – ruled that Congress, not the EPA, has the power to regulate existing power plants to reduce carbon emissions and encourage a transition to renewable energy sources.

Jeff Freedman, a research associate at the University at Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, is an expert in renewable energy, boundary layer meteorology and climate change. He has been involved in offshore wind energy research since the early 2000s and runs an environmental law consulting firm.

Freedman does not believe that Congress has the expertise necessary to make these types of regulatory decisions.

“Congress expressly delegated to administrative agencies, like the EPA, the power to create and enforce rules precisely for this purpose,” Freedman said. “Under the Federal Administrative Procedure Act, which governs agency rulemaking, there is quite a sophisticated and open process including public comment and input, administrative review, and final promulgation. SCOTUS has pretty much ignored that process and the powers Congress expressly delegated to EPA.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, with the court’s three liberal justices offering dissents. The decision is a setback to the Biden administration’s climate agenda, particularly its goal to zero out carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and cut the country’s emissions in half by 2100, according to Freedman.

“The consequence of this decision means the Biden administration will have to figure out a way, either through legislation or other regulatory means – perhaps even through the Federal Reserve via banking regulations making it more difficult to finance fossil fuel plants – to incentivize the nation’s transition to a new energy economy.”

Freedman holds an MS and PhD in atmospheric science from UAlbany and also earned his JD from New York Law School. He previously worked as assistant counsel to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, playing a key role in its development and enforcement of rules and regulations for protection of the City’s water supply.  


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