Generally, a permit may not be issued for such sources unless stringent conditions are met. EPA regulations promulgated in to implement the permit requirement allow a State to adopt a plantwide definition of the term "stationary source," under which an existing plant that contains several pollution-emitting devices may install or modify one piece of equipment without meeting the permit conditions if the alteration will not increase the total emissions from the plant, thus allowing a State to treat all of the pollution-emitting devices within the same industrial grouping as though they were encased within a single "bubble. Although recognizing that the amended Clean Air Act does not explicitly define what Congress envisioned as a "stationary source" to which the permit program should apply, and that the issue was not squarely addressed in the legislative history, the court concluded that, in view of the purpose of the nonattainment program to improve, rather than merely maintain, air quality, a plantwide definition was "inappropriate," while stating it was mandatory in programs designed to maintain existing air quality. However, when a new administration took office in , the EPA, in promulgating the regulations involved here, reevaluated the various arguments that had been advanced in connection with the proper definition of the term "source" and concluded that the term should be given the plantwide definition in nonattainment areas.
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Scroll to the top Photo: Roo Reynolds President Obama released the Clean Power Plan on Monday, aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent over the next 15 years.
That same day, the National Mining Association requested that the U. In an ironic twist, the EPA will argue through the federal courts that a Supreme Court case the environmental movement lost more than 30 years ago—by a unanimous vote—grants the agency the authority to regulate carbon pollution today.
It was a balmy 86 degrees in Washington, D. Life was good, or so they thought. On its face, Chevron v. NRDC was an ordinary case of statutory interpretation disclosure.
In , Congress amended the Clean Air Act, requiring states to establish programs to reduce air pollution from power plants. A key part of the statute forced polluters to install state-of-the-art pollution-control technology whenever they made changes to their facilities. Photo: Larry Miller The issue in Chevron v. NRDC was what sorts of changes to the plants triggered this upgrade requirement.
The simplest reading of the statute would have called for pollution controls whenever any sort of equipment change was made. The bubble rule seems like a technical detail, but it saved the utilities millions of dollars and significantly dulled the effectiveness of the Clean Air Act amendment.
What was added or removed from it? Which interpretation was more consistent with the overarching goals of the legislation?
In the end, the justices decided Chevron was a case about the separation of powers, not the hoary old traditions of statutory interpretation.
In a decision three justices recused themselves, possibly because of financial interests in Chevron , Justice John Paul Stevens argued that the Supreme Court should allow administrative agencies to interpret statutes, as long as their interpretations do not obviously contradict the language in the law.
Since the text of the Clean Air Act amendments did not obviously oppose the bubble concept, the court stood aside. Chevron deference, as it is now implemented, is a two-step process. First, the judge determines whether the statute speaks directly to the issue.
Chevron was, in some ways, an abdication of judicial authority. On the other hand, Chevron limits the influence of unelected judges and empowers more accountable executive agencies. Scholars continue to argue the merits of the decision, but it is now an undeniable part of the constitutional firmament. A New Space for Environmental Regulation In the abstract, Chevron deference is neither a liberal nor a conservative tool.
It merely strengthens the executive branch at the expense of the judicial branch. Whether that power is used to tighten or relax regulations depends, in theory, on who occupies the White House and picks the agency heads. In regard to environmental laws, which are typically strongly worded and absolute in their commitment to conservation, Chevron has become particularly useful.
Against that historical backdrop, Chevron is a gift. In , the D. In New York v. EPA, the D. Lewis Carroll reference, the court in New Jersey v.
Occasionally, the EPA oversteps the Chevron boundaries while trying to tighten environmental regulations, and deregulatory administrations sometimes find the wiggle room they need the Chevron case itself is such an example.
Overall, though, Chevron deference has been kind to the environment. But the utilities will be back. Now that Clean Power Plan is final, the case will likely wend its way to the Supreme Court, where Chevron will loom very large once again. Utilities will make two primary arguments against the Clean Power Plan. Second, the challengers will point to an alleged conflict between two provisions in the Clean Air Act.
When amending the statute in , the House and Senate each passed their own fixes to an administrative problem in the law—and both versions were erroneously included in the final statute.
The differences between the two, although slight at first glance, have big implications. The other version says the EPA cannot regulate pollutants already regulated under a separate section, which carbon dioxide is not. The EPA, for its part, has determined that the provisions are not in conflict, and both allow for regulation of carbon emissions from power plants.
Smart lawyers will make cases on either side of these arguments. The statute says very little about inside or outside the fence line, and the bizarrely conflicting provisions concerning source categories and pollutants are also indisputably ambiguous.
Court watchers are already deeply engaged in this question, which could settle the case. In recent terms, the court appears to be taking a slight step back from Chevron. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in King v. Burwell , the case that upheld Obamacare earlier this year. In a somewhat ironic twist, utilities will argue that climate change is a big deal, and carbon pollution is a big deal.
Not so fast, argue defenders of the Clean Power Plan. They will also argue that King v. Burwell is nothing like the Clean Power Plan. Since the interpretation at issue in the Obamacare case was one of tax law, Chevron deference would have required the Court to defer to the IRS. The EPA has to make this decision. In a case released only days after King v.
That seems completely sensible. Agencies have to make these decisions. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC.
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Scroll to the top Photo: Roo Reynolds President Obama released the Clean Power Plan on Monday, aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent over the next 15 years. That same day, the National Mining Association requested that the U. In an ironic twist, the EPA will argue through the federal courts that a Supreme Court case the environmental movement lost more than 30 years ago—by a unanimous vote—grants the agency the authority to regulate carbon pollution today. It was a balmy 86 degrees in Washington, D. Life was good, or so they thought.
Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984)
Motaur However, this is only appropriate once a SIP is adopted that will assure the reductions in existing emissions necessary for attainment. Reforming the Clean Air Act 28 footnote omitted. It does, however, plainly disclose that in the permit program Congress sought to accommodate the conflict between the economic interest in permitting capital improvements to continue and the environmental interest in improving air quality. Views Read Edit View history. I should note that the test for determining whether a new or modified source is subject to the EPA interpretative regulation [the Offset Ruling] — and to the permit requirements of the revised implementation plans under the conference bill — is whether the source will emit a pollutant into an area which is exceeding a national ambient air quality standard for that pollutant — or precursor. After adoption of the Amendments, proposals for a plantwide definition were considered in at least three formal proceedings. The case you are viewing is cited by the following Supreme Court decisions.
CHEVRON NRDC PDF
The amended Clean Air Act required these "nonattainment" States to establish a permit program regulating "new or modified major stationary sources" of air pollution. Generally, a permit may not be issued for a new or modified major stationary source unless several stringent conditions are met. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. Gorsuch, U. In light of its conclusion that the legislative history bearing on the question was "at best contradictory," it reasoned that "the purposes of the nonattainment program should guide our decision here.
Chevron USA Inc v Natural Resources Defense Council: The Birth of Chevron Deference