The U.S. Supreme Court partially upheld one of President Barack Obama’s early efforts against climate change, saying the Environmental Protection Agency had authority to impose new permitting requirements on some power plants and factories.
The permitting rules apply when facilities are built or expanded. They are separate from the administration’s more comprehensive climate-change regulations, including the plan released June 2 to cut carbon emissions from existing plants by as much as 25 percent over 15 years.
The Supreme Court gave the EPA a preliminary victory in October, refusing to consider arguments that would have barred the agency from addressing climate change at all. That left states and business groups fighting the permit rules, which they said may ultimately affect millions of facilities, including bakeries and apartment complexes.
Today’s ruling, which splintered the court, may head off that possibility, limiting the rules to a few hundred facilities that already have to get permits for other pollutants. The justices said greenhouse-gas emissions by themselves can’t serve as the trigger for a permit requirement.
The permitting requirements are part of the EPA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration program under the Clean Air Act. Under that program, facilities must install the best available technology to control emissions from new or modified major sources of air pollution.
The effect of the permitting program so far has been limited. Since 2011, 141 greenhouse-gas permits have been issued, about half for new facilities and half for the expansion of existing ones, according to the EPA.
The industries primarily affected by the requirements are power plants, chemical facilities, oil and gas projects and cement plants, according to the EPA. Companies that have applied for permits include Calpine Corp., ExxonMobil Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp.
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