US SUPREME COURT OPINION: North Dakota v. E.P.A.

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Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 12:00 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The United States Supreme Court has closed out its history-making session with a decision that greatly impacts North Dakota.

This session, the Supreme Court has clarified gun rights, returned decisions on abortion to the states, rejected efforts to rein in electoral map manipulation, and protected religious freedoms within public schools. Today, they issued one more big decision that affects North Dakotans: in West Virginia v. EPA, they restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate power plant emissions.

The Supreme Court’s decision today was monumental. North Dakota joined the lawsuit against the EPA, and today Attorney General Drew Wrigley called it “one of the most important environmental and energy law cases in decades.”

“We went back to, kind of the founding principles of environmental law, which is: the states know best how to manage and protect the environment within their own borders, let’s empower the states to meet national objectives, which is what we’re doing,” said Jason Bohrer, president and CEO of Lignite Energy Council.

But while this decision could positively impact jobs in North Dakota, not everyone is thrilled about it. Plenty of North Dakotans see this as a huge step back for cleaning up the state’s pollution.

“It’s just going to be a devastating thing to take away that backstop and the protections that the EPA provided and the ability for them to regulate things like greenhouse gases, which are really important to regulate during this time in the world. We’ll be one of the only major countries that’s not going to be directly regulating greenhouse gases in the developed world, which is just horrifying,” said Scott Skokos, executive director for the Dakota Resource Council.

Essentially, the decision means regulations on power plants need to come from Congress. It’s possible Congress will act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s unlikely. And North Dakota’s delegation have indicated they’re not going to implement new regulations on energy anytime soon.

“It’s about common sense. Let us use common sense. I mean, North Dakota epitomizes common sense. So, our regulators, as well as our regulation and laws in this state, will enable us to produce more energy more cost effectively more dependably, with the latest, greatest technology, with good environmental stewardship if we’re allowed to do it with common sense,” said Sen. John Hoeven.

Hoeven isn’t alone -- the response from elected officials in North Dakota and Montana has been overwhelmingly positive.

Even though the ruling means the EPA can’t set carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants, it still has the ability to regulate carbon dioxide, like any other pollutant. It’s also worth noting that emissions targets can be met without regulations. For instance, the Clean Air Act, which was a law passed in the 1960s, met its targets a decade ahead of schedule, despite never going into effect.

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