Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Fall 2014, Vol. 23, No. 2

The Temperature Rises: A Hot Summer in Greenhouse Gas Regulation

By Julia E. Stein*


The summer of 2014 sizzled in the field of greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation, with three key developments. First, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated a proposed "Clean Power Plan" to address carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Second, the Supreme Court ruled on the scope of EPA authority in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, 573 U.S. ___ (June 23, 2014). Third, EPA proposed regulatory updates to existing performance standards for municipal solid waste landfills to reduce emissions of methane-rich landfill gas.

To a large extent, this summer’s developments represent the fallout of the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, which held that EPA’s regulatory authority extended to tailpipe emissions of GHGs.1 In reaching this decision, the majority noted that "greenhouse gases fit well within the CAA’s capacious definition of air pollutant"2—a definition which encompasses "any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive. . .substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air."3

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