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Environmentalists decry U.S. Supreme Court limiting EPA's power to regulate emissions

Environmentalists decry U.S. Supreme Court limiting EPA's power to regulate emissions
Environmentalists decry U.S. Supreme Court limiting EPA's power to regulate emissions 03:28

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In a ruling decried by local environmentalists, the U.S. Supreme Court has curtailed federal powers to limit greenhouse gas emissions. 

The court ruled Thursday that the Obama administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped their bounds with a plan to cap emissions at coal-fired power plants and steer energy production to wind and solar.

The Cheswick Generating Station has been shut down, and that's just fine with Heather Loebig, who lives just a block away. 

"I especially enjoy the plant being shut down because I don't have to clean my porch off every day," Loebig said.

In the past decade, three others coal-fired plants in the Pittsburgh region have shut down, as the economics of coal and operation costs have made them unprofitable. But operators have also complained of excessive regulations. Thursday's ruling was applauded by coal country state Sen. Camera Bartolotta.

"The policy was never intended for the Environmental Protection Agency, an unelected bureaucratic agency, to control everything when it comes to energy production," she said. "And for that agency to dictate to an entire industry and change the makeup of all energy production, it is overreach."

But environmentalists say it's the high court that's overreaching, limiting the ability of federal agencies like the EPA to interpret laws like the Clean Air Act and protect the environment. 

Matthew Mehalik of the Breathe Project hopes that is not the case.

'What we would not want to see is an interpretation of limiting the government's ability to protect its citizens' rights to health and quality of life," Mehalik said. "But I think there are still very strong grounds for protecting our health for our air and our water and our land."

In a statement, President Joe Biden said the administration and the EPA would not be deterred.

"My Administration will continue using lawful executive authority, including the EPA's legally-upheld authorities, to keep our air clean, protect public health, and tackle the climate crisis."

Mehalik said the decision should not threaten existing environmental protection laws.

"The Supreme Court did not strike down the Clean Air Act," he said. "The Clean Air Act still stands as an act of Congress."

For her part, Loebig said she supports giving the EPA the leeway to impose regulations to move the country away from coal-fired power plants. 

"I feel like they should close them and have cleaner energy," Loebig said.

The Clean Air Act is not under threat here, but the decision could rein in the powers of the EPA to interpret the law. And that will likely mean other regulations will be challenged in court.

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