ArView Alert: SCOTUS Decision on West Virginia v. EPA

Originally published for customers July 1, 2022.

What Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision Means for the Natural Gas Industry

West Virginia vs. EPA involved a challenge to the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions from electric power plants. Yesterday’s 6-3 decision will impact FERC’s pending GHG policy statement for natural gas pipeline projects.

The key issue before the Court was whether the lower court’s decision violates the “Major Questions” doctrine — the legal principle that Congress must explicitly give an administrative agency the power to make “decisions of vast economic and political significance.”

The case focused on EPA’s authority over emissions from coal-fired power plants and many thought the Court would use it as a vehicle to make sweeping changes in EPA’s authority over greenhouse gases or in the deference it gives to administrative agencies. In actuality, it did neither, but it did limit the methods the EPA could use to regulate coal plant emissions and in particular said that EPA could not force shifts to natural gas-fired power or to wind and solar without a clearer grant of authority from Congress.

The limits on EPA’s authority in this area would appear to doom FERC’s assertion in its pending GHG policy that it can take into account upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions when considering the public benefit of a natural gas pipeline.

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