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Legal Action against USA’s Environmental Protection Agency

Legal Action against USA’s Environmental Protection Agency
March 9, 2022 Kai Frolic

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA has found itself embroiled in a legal quagmire. Before getting into that, it’s worth understanding at a basic level where the EPA fits into the grander scheme of things.

The United States Government is composed of three branches, which are:

  • Legislative.
  • Executive.
  • Judicial.

The job of the executive branch is to carry out and enforce the law [1]. The key roles within the branch are the President, the Vice President and The Cabinet.

There are also independent agencies of the federal government that exist outside any federal executive departments. These agencies can subsequently be seen as slightly further removed from Presidential control than they would be if they were contained within the normal executive branch. This also leads to much speculation and finger-pointing on the topic of how much power such agencies should have.

The EPA is one such agency. It was established [2] under President Nixon in 1970 – proving that the man gave the world more than just the suffix ‘gate’ for scandalous topics.

The EPA and Green Energy Policy

The Biden administration is overtly pro-green energy in the USA. This is timely considering the United Nations recently put out a climate report with the harrowing tagline [3] ‘delay means death’.

The EPA could play a key role in the move towards renewables in USA. The extent to which they will try and do this has some parties worried.

Legal Action

The Supreme Court is already involved, because 19 individual states (who by complete coincidence produce a lot of coal) are concerned that the EPA doesn’t have the power to issue the type of new policies that they fear it may attempt to issue [4]. The other side is arguing that since the new regulation is to be unveiled at a later date, hearing the argument in court now is premature.

An Old Conflict

The issue of how much power the EPA should have is not a new one. The USA’s green energy policy has been the subject of much arguing over the last few administrations. President Obama’s administration attempted to launch the ‘Clean Power Plan’, which was blocked by the Supreme Court two years later. President Trump’s administration saw Obama’s plan repealed and replaced with a new version called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, that was considered by many to be weaker [5]. This time, it was a group of democratic states that sued over the (then) new plan [6].

The result of all this back-and-forth is that neither of the previous two administration’s plans ever took effect, and the EPA under the Biden administration is tasked with writing something new. While we wait to see what that is, I suspect the lawyers on either side are already on speed-dial.

Pager Power

Pager Power is a planning consultancy providing technical analysis, advice and support to developers of tall buildings and renewable energy infrastructure worldwide. Please get in touch to learn more about how we can help you with your projects.

References

[1] Source: usa.gov/branches of government.
[2]  Source: https://www.epa.gov/history
[3] Sping, J, Januta, A and Dickie, G (February 2022), ‘Delay means death’ – UN climate report urges immediate, drastic action (link), Reuters, last accessed March 2022.
[4] Aljazeera (February 2022), US Supreme Court weights EPA’s authority to limit carbon emissions (link), last accessed March 2022.
[5] Ifran, U (2019), Trump’s EPA just replaced Obama’s signature climate policy with a much weaker rule (link), VOX media (last accessed March 2022).
[6] Delgadillo, N (2018), Seventeen States and D.C. Sue the Trump Administration Over Vehicle Emissions Standards (link), Governing, last accessed March 2022

Thumbnail image accreditation: Towfiqu Barbhuiya (July 2021), on Pexels.com. Last accessed 9th March 2022. Available at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-gavel-8693379/

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