U.S. Supreme Court justices questioned whether the Environmental Protection Agency had authority to impose permit requirements on power plants and factories in a test of President Barack Obama’s climate-change agenda.
Seven years after saying the EPA could regulate greenhouse- gas emissions, the court today heard arguments from industry groups and Republican-led states over one aspect of the agency’s effort under the Clean Air Act.
The justices hinted they might rule narrowly, perhaps by limiting greenhouse-gas emissions only from facilities that already have to get a permit. The justice likely to provide the swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, asked just a handful of questions. Early on, he suggested he wasn’t interested in revisiting the earlier decision or the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Later Kennedy told an Obama administration lawyer that he couldn’t find a “single precedent” that supports the government’s defense of the EPA approach.
States and business groups say the permit rules may ultimately affect millions of facilities, including bakeries and apartment complexes.
The effect of the permit 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., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp.
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