Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: April 29, 2014
  • Case #: 12-1182
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined. Alito, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Environmental Protection Agency's interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the regulations promulgated in furtherance of that act are reasonable and subject to deference.

The "Good Neighbor" provision of the Clean Air Act enables the EPA to regulate "upwind" states whose pollution, by means of the weather, substantially affects a "downwind" state's ability to meet national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The EPA chose a two-step process for determining which states to regulate and how. The first step screens out those upwind states that contribute less than one percent of the NAAQS concerned to any downwind states. Those states screened in by step one are then regulated to the most cost-efficient extent possible. Several states and industry groups challenged this new EPA rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the rule because, in its eyes, the EPA had overregulated states by using this cost-efficiency model instead of a proportional regulation.

The Court today reverses the court of appeals and upholds the EPA rule. Justice Ginsburg reminds us that it is the duty of the courts to apply the letter of the law rather than to improve the law. Applying Chevron, the Court finds the EPA's rule to be a reasonable interpretation of the clean air act as promulgated and amended by Congress.

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