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Split Supreme Court Limits EPA Ability To Regulate CO2 Emissions

Most power plants, refineries, factories will still have to reduce greenhouse gases.

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is hailing as a victory a ruling by the Supreme Court striking down the Obama Administration’s regulation limiting greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had argued that, because it was already required by the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from cars and trucks, it was also required to regulate large stationary sources. The justices ruled against the agency 5-4.

But the justices affirmed the EPA does have the authority to regulate such emissions from those sources, if the structures are already regulated for emitting other pollutants – such as sulfur dioxide.

“These already regulated sources account for the vast majority of CO2 emitted in the United States – 83 percent,” says Tracy Hester, a lecturer on environmental law at the University of Houston Law Center.

Hester says the ruling allows the EPA to regulate emissions not only from power plants, but also from refineries and chemical plants. However, natural gas processing plants, which primarily emit greenhouse gases, would be exempt.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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