Resources for the Future – Climate Change and the Supreme Court
In 2022, the US court system will play a large role in determining the future of US climate policy and environmental regulation. By using two legal doctrines—the nondelegation and major questions doctrines, which can determine the authoritative scope granted to federal agencies—the Supreme Court could substantially limit regulations issued to cut carbon pollution. The nondelegation doctrine would limit the ability of Congress to delegate its legislative powers to another branch of government. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) elevated the major questions doctrine—the argument that federal agencies should have strict limits on their ability to enforce regulations of major importance. In the ongoing case of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), application of either or both doctrines would undermine EPA’s authority to promulgate regulation similar to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Should the Supreme Court side with West Virginia, EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions would be truncated.
Last month, the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana recently posed another obstacle for strong environmental regulations, by blocking EPA’s ability to use an interim value for the social cost of carbon—a number that’s critical for assessing the feasibility of implementing environmental regulations. While this district court decision limits EPA’s regulatory options in the short term, it could spell trouble for the Biden administration’s plans to unveil a new estimate for the social cost of carbon in the coming months.
Join Resources for the Future (RFF) on Tuesday, March 22, for a conversation between legal experts Lisa Heinzerling and Jonathan Wiener, moderated by Susan Tierney, that will explore the implications of these cases for environmental policy.
- Lisa Heinzerling, Georgetown University Law Center
- Jonathan Wiener, Resources for the Future and Duke University School of Law
- Susan Tierney, Resources for the Future and Analysis Group (Moderator)