For Immediate Release, June 23, 2014

Contact: Vera Pardee, (858) 717-1448,  

Supreme Court Again Upholds EPA's Authority to Fight Global Warming

Ruling Vindicates Climate Science, Clean Air Act's Power to Cut Carbon Pollution

WASHINGTON— In a landmark victory for efforts to curb carbon pollution and fight the climate crisis, the U.S. Supreme Court today once again vindicated the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

In its ruling on Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the court agreed with the EPA that under the Clean Air Act’s plant-specific permit program, large industrial polluters like power plants and refineries must install the best available technologies to reduce carbon emissions each time they build new plants or modify existing ones.

“The EPA clearly has the authority to fight carbon pollution, and now we need swift action ambitious enough to actually fight the climate crisis,” said Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “To ward off global warming’s worst effects, the Obama administration must speed up work to cut power plant pollution and reduce carbon emissions from cars, trucks, airplanes, boats and trains.”

While the Supreme Court held that carbon pollution alone does not trigger the permit requirements, the court found that carbon must be controlled when plants emit more than the established thresholds for certain traditional pollutants.

Importantly, this decision about individualized, pre-construction permits does not in any way affect EPA’s current effort to establish overall, national pollution standards for new and existing power plants, refineries and other large industrial polluters under the Clean Air Act’s new source performance program standards (NSPS program). The Supreme Court also rejected the fossil fuel industry’s all-out assault on the incontrovertible science underlying climate change and upheld the EPA’s authority to use the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon pollution for vehicles.

The ruling comes soon after a major new scientific report found that climate change has already dangerously increased flood risk in many of America’s largest coastal cities and will drive up sea levels as much as 4 feet by 2100.

The National Climate Assessment also predicted serious climate threats to America’s food supply, an increased risk of powerful hurricanes, and as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century unless deep cuts are made to carbon pollution.

“Climate change is already hurting America, assaulting us with droughts and floods, deadly heat waves and wildfires,” Pardee said. “We’re facing melting glaciers, rising seas and species extinction. With this legal case resolved, it’s time for the EPA to put the Clean Air Act to full use as quickly as possible to head off catastrophic changes.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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