On June 30, 2022, the US Supreme Court held that the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP) “[c]apping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that [would] force” energy generation shifting from coal to natural gas to renewables nationwide was not within the statutory authority that Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), codified as 42 U.S.C. § 7411(d), granted to EPA. West Virginia v. Env’t Prot. Agency, 597 U. S. ____, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 3268, at *54 (2022). Applying the major questions doctrine, the Court held that Congress must be express in granting EPA the authority to adopt the kind of transformational regulatory scheme that EPA tried to implement under Section 111(d).
Under the major questions doctrine, a court will not follow the general rule of deferring to an agency’s interpretation of a statutory provision in certain “extraordinary cases” that involve “highly consequential power beyond what Congress could reasonably be understood to have granted.” This typically occurs when (1) there is an issue of deep economic or political significance; or (2) Congress did not clearly give an agency authority over an issue. The Court found no reason to defer here. Read more about the case and potential broader implications of the Supreme Court’s decision here.