U.S. Supreme Court Again Confirms EPA Responsibility to Address Global Warming Pollution

June 20, 2011
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NEWS RELEASE

Contact:
Tony Kreindler, 202-445-8108, tkreindler@edf.org
Vickie Patton, 720-837-6239, vpatton@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – June 20, 2011) The U. S. Supreme Court today in American Electric Power v. Connecticut firmly underscored the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) congressionally mandated responsibility to address global warming pollution from power plants and other major pollution sources.

The Court's opinion holds that a 2007 Supreme Court decision "made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under" the Clean Air Act, and that the Act " 'speaks directly' to emissions of carbon dioxide from the defendants' plants." Power plant smokestacks are the single largest source of carbon pollution in our nation, responsible for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. emissions.

"The most important thing about this decision is that it buttresses the foundation for EPA to do its job," said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. "The Supreme Court strongly underscored EPA's responsibility under the law to address climate pollution that threatens the health and well-being of our nation."

The High Court ruled today in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut that federal common law nuisance claims brought by the states of California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to abate the extensive pollution discharged by the nation's five largest emitting power companies (AEP, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, Cinergy and TVA) are displaced by EPA's responsibility under the Clean Air Act to address global warming pollution that endangers human health and welfare.

The Court describes at length the EPA's development of greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standards for new and existing power plants, a major source of global warming pollution, under the nation's Clean Air Act and its commitment to complete action by May 2012:

"EPA is currently engaged in a [Clean Air Act] rulemaking to set standards for greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants. *** [T]he agency agreed to complete that rulemaking by May 2012. [citation omitted]. The Act itself thus provides a means to seek limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from domestic power plants – the same relief the plaintiffs seek by invoking federal common law. We see no room for a parallel track."

Environmental Defense Fund is a party to the settlement agreement requiring EPA action to address power plant pollution under the Clean Air Act.

The Court also relies on EPA's expertise in addressing these vitally important air pollution problems: "It is altogether fitting that Congress designated an expert agency, here, EPA, as best suited to serve as primary regulator of greenhouse gas emissions."