Thursday, October 17, 2013
Courts - "Roberts Court Cloaks Activism in Complexity"
As is evident from this post earlier today, the SCOTUS decision to grant cert in the greenhouse gases case is not that easy to unravel. Noah Feldman, Harvard constitutional law professor, has a long article today in Bloomberg examining this complexity. Just a sample:
The regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions bids fair to produce a similarly confusing result. The court had been asked to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that upheld Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gases that are the Barack Obama administration’s most significant accomplishments for environmental protection. The court declined to review -- and thus left in place -- the regulations on motor-vehicle emissions. It also chose not to review the basic question of the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Environmentalists cheered this result.
At the same time, however, the court agreed to review a single, wildly technical-sounding question: “Whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.” What this question asks in English, roughly speaking, is whether the EPA was allowed to issue emissions regulations governing factories and power plants under the authority of the law that lets it regulate cars and trucks. And what that means in practical terms is that the court could strike down the Obama EPA’s existing greenhouse-gas regulations for the nonmoving (“stationary”) polluters who create much of the pollution that drives global warming.
Behold the Roberts paradigm! Or don’t behold it: The hand is quicker than the eye. The headline allows environmental regulation to stand. The fine print suggests that the most important part of the existing regulations enacted by the Obama administration could be ditched.