SCOTUS EPA ruling opens door for businesses to challenge other regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently does not have the authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority said in a ruling last week.

The ruling has no immediate impact, though it effectively limits EPA’s ability to regulate Louisiana’s industrial sector and may make it easier for business interests to challenge all sorts of government rules.

The decision could help to provide predictability and transparency for Louisiana’s chemical facilities and create more certainty for future investment decisions, Louisiana Chemical Association CEO Greg Bowser says.

“This decision takes governmental overreach from appointed bureaucrats and puts it back into the hands of legislators,” Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, says in a prepared statement. “We applaud this Supreme Court decision and look forward to more balanced decisions toward our industry in the future.”

The 6-3 ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency could have a major impact in Louisiana, which is both an industrial hub and on the front lines of climate change.

“It is tragic for Louisiana, as one of the states most at risk from climate change, that the Supreme Court has become a political weapon to undermine our future and our health,” Marylee Orr, who directs the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said in a text.

The lawsuit challenged the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to transition electricity generation from coal to natural gas and then renewables and is not currently in effect, says Keith Hall, who directs LSU’s Mineral Law Institute.

“The Court’s decision today prevents the EPA from doing that without getting more explicit authority from Congress, so that is a win for the natural gas industry and the Louisiana jobs that depend on it,” Hall said in an email.

Much like when they struck down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, the court’s conservatives said the federal government needs specific instructions from Congress to enact sweeping regulations, rather than relying on the broad authority in an agency’s enabling statute. This is known as the “major questions” doctrine, though the justices have not defined what constitutes a “major question,” says Nicholas Bryner, an associate professor of law at LSU.

“It opens the door to any kind of challenge,” Bryner says.