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EPA Isn’t ‘Knocked Out,’ But Doing Its Job Just Got Much Harder

The environmental agency is now left with “more costly and less effective” options to curb power-plant emissions after Supreme Court ruling strips broader oversight. 

A coal-fired power plant in Poca, West Virginia.
A coal-fired power plant in Poca, West Virginia.Photographer: Dane Rhys/Bloomberg

The Supreme Court ruling Thursday that curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s flexibility to curb power-plant emissions on a systematic basis is setting the stage for a piecemeal approach to the issue. But the decision didn’t erase the agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse-gas pollutants more broadly, nor did it leave it entirely toothless in the fight against climate change.

The agency still maintains the ability to regulate emissions from individual power plants, but now must move forward with more caution. Even before the ruling, EPA officials were planning new rules to regulate plant emissions, taking a narrower approach that would be focused squarely on coal- and gas-fired power plants, without bringing in non-emitting renewable electricity.