In 2015, then-President Obama ordered the EPA to develop and implement a new rule, known as the “Clean Power Plan,” (CPP) that would “drive a[n] . . . aggressive transformation in the domestic energy industry.” In June of 2019, President Trump repealed the CPP in favor of more modest regulations. Leftist environmental groups challenged the repeal, resulting in the D.C. Circuit Court ruling that Trump’s repeal was incorrect. President Biden’s EPA was poised to revive the CPP before the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The CPP proposed under the Obama administration would result in “generation shifting,” which changes how electricity is produced, moving from sources such as coal to renewable resources such as solar or wind power. These shifts would cause wholesale electricity prices to rise by $214 billion and the price of energy for specific states to increase by 25%. Implementing the CPP would also result in GDP dropping by at least one trillion dollars by 2040.
West Virginia, as well as a number of other states, challenged the CPP’s legality. In a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had violated the “major questions doctrine” by enacting a regulation with such vast political and economic significance. The Court said that this could not be done without explicit permission from Congress.
With this victory, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the separation of powers envisioned by the Framers. This opinion returns decision-making authority to the Congress—the branch directly accountable to the American people. And this decision will slow the continuing overreach by unelected government officials who assume legislative powers clearly outside of their prerogative.
We trust the Court will continue in future cases to return to everyday Americans the ability to shape policy through Congress and through state governments. While there exists no scarcity of “emergencies” for which career bureaucrats will attempt to go beyond their statutory powers, the Constitution is clear in placing control over America’s laws with the people and by extension their duly elected representatives. This holds true regardless of Justice Kagan’s claims in her dissent that “Members of Congress often don’t know enough … to regulate sensibly on an issue” and that “Congress [cannot] (realistically) keep track of and respond to fast-flowing developments as they occur.” We applaud this decision and hope many similar opinions are to come.
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