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Court to rule on greenhouse gases (UPDATE)

UPDATED note to readers: Because of the press of other Court news Tuesday, this post was not updated.  The blog will post on Wednesday a fuller discussion of the orders, including more on the greenhouse gas case.


The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to review the federal government’s power to regulate so-called “greenhouse gases” from fixed sources in an effort to head off global warming.  The Justices accepted six petitions for review, but said it would consider only a single question for all of them.

The granted issue is: “Whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”  The petitions were consolidated for one hour of oral argument.  The Court denied review of three other petitions challenging EPA on greenhouse gas rules.

The Court also granted review of a second case: on the legality under federal law of the owner of a gun selling it to someone else, if the new owner can have a gun legally.  That case is Abramski v. United States (12-1493).  However, the Court followed its recent pattern of refusing to hear constitutional challenges to gun control laws under the Second Amendment, turning aside a Maryland case seeking to expand the personal right to have a gun beyond the home (Woollard v. Gallagher, 13-42).

The Court also turned aside, again, California’s effort to get free from lower court orders requiring the state to release nearly 10,000 inmates from prisons to relieve overcrowding and threats to the health of the prisoners.  The Court dismissed a new appeal by state officials, saying it lacked jurisdiction to hear it.  (Brown v. Plata, 13-198).

The challengers to the Environmental Protection Agency on its greenhouse gas regulations had raised a variety of issues,  including the basic question of whether EPA had justified its finding that such emissions are a hazard to public health.  The one question on which the Court will rule involved a decision by EPA that, after deciding to limit emissions from cars and trucks, it had the power to then move on to impose permit requirements on stationary sources like power plants that emit such gases.

Although the Court was willing to step into that controversy, it chose on Tuesday not to get involved in another environmental dispute.  It turned aside, without comment, three petitions — including one by the EPA — on that agency’s authority to decide that it need not issue a permit for transfers of water from one waterway to another.  The three petitions were in 13-6, 13-10 (the EPA petition), and 13-23.

The Court’s order on greenhouse gases granted these petitions: 12-1146, 12-1248, 12-1254, 12-1268, 12-1269, and 12-1272.  It denied review of 12-1152, 12-1153, and 12-1253.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Court to rule on greenhouse gases (UPDATE), SCOTUSblog (Oct. 15, 2013, 9:35 AM),