The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the lead case in a series of six lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency regarding stricter regulations for greenhouse gas emissions.
Indiana, along with 12 other states and industry leaders, is suing the EPA over carbon emission standards for new natural gas and coal fired power plants.
The EPA based its regulations on standards outlined in the Clean Air Act.
According to the SCOTUSblog, the justices appeared largely divided during arguments with Justice Anthony Kennedy likely being the swing vote.
One part of the EPA standards mandates greenhouse gases shouldn’t exceed a certain threshold, but another makes that threshold so low places such as small businesses and schools, in addition to large power plants, would exceed the limit.
Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor Jim Barnes says the Clean Air Act that Congress passed in 1970 was never designed to deal with climate change and the emission of greenhouse gases.
“The EPA had to make some adjustments in its interpretations of the law in order to make it fit the circumstances of greenhouse gas emissions,” Barnes said.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office is arguing against the regulations.
“This involves circumstances where the states contend a federal agency has taken on more authority than Congress allowed, and now the nation’s highest court has given the states the opportunity to be heard,” Zoeller said in a statement.
In a 2007 Supreme Court ruling involving Massachusetts, the justices determined the EPA did have the authority to regulate carbon and greenhouse gases.
The EPA stepped up its regulations following that decision, and as it stands, Indiana would be required to upgrade or close many of its existing coal power plants.