US SUPREME COURT OPINION: North Dakota v. E.P.A.

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June 30, 2022


Media contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

BISMARCK, ND – “Today North Dakota secured a landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory in one of the most important environmental and energy law cases in decades, firmly establishing the States’ role as an equal partner with the Federal government in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants,” Attorney General Drew Wrigley said. “This is a tremendous victory for North Dakota and for every State.”

By its action today in North Dakota v. E.P.A., the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 2020 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. that struck down U.S. EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which properly recognized the allocation of State and federal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. The Affordable Clean Energy Rule had replaced the 2016 Clean Power Plan, which unwisely stripped States of their right and authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and imposed a draconian and centralized one-size-fits-all nationwide mandate that would have had devastating effects on North Dakota’s economy and citizens. Long before today’s decision, North Dakota played a leading role in persuading the Supreme Court to stop the Clean Power Plan in 2016, and today the Supreme Court rejected the D.C. Circuit’s effort to revive that flawed policy again. Wrigley said, “Our victory in the U.S. Supreme Court shows that the DC Circuit stepped way over the line when it allowed the EPA to ignore Congress and the States and transform EPA into a new national energy regulator.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for all States, Wrigley observed, noting that “North Dakota’s challenge focused on the fact that the D.C. Circuit’s Opinion failed to apply the Clean Air Act’s cooperative federalism approach establishing the partnership relationship between EPA and the States.” In other words – EPA could not make a policy decision to force States to shift away from coal generation without a technologically justified basis for doing so based in the Clean Air Act’s text. The Supreme Court adopted North Dakota’s position, stating that it found it “highly unlikely that Congress would leave to agency discretion the decision of how much coal-based generation there should be over the coming decades” and that “it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d)” of the Clean Air Act.

Wrigley added that “North Dakota supports practical, affordable and science-based regulations based on the Federal-State partnership established by Congress. The EPA can’t just do whatever it wants and use climate change as an excuse to take the law into its own hands.” Rejecting widespread media reports that this decision is a blow to climate change policies, Wrigley noted that “climate alarmists overlooked the fact that the nation’s power sector easily beat the aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan well ahead of schedule without the unnecessary and unlawful centralized command-and-control overreaching regulation the federal government attempted in this case.” Wrigley concluded that this “shows that significant greenhouse gas emission reductions can continue to be practically and efficiently achieved without giving up our rights to unelected administrators and bureaucrats in Washington DC.”

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