June 30, 2011

US Supreme Court grants authority once again to the EPA, despite lobbyist efforts

By Donna Artusy; Cleantech Law Partners

The Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. US EPA 549 U.S. 497 (2007) is once again stirring up friction between utilities companies and Congress. The 2007 decision reaffirmed the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, under the power of the Clean Air Act passed in 1963.

Even in the recent June 20, 2011 decision by the Supreme Court in American Electric Power v. Connecticut (docket no. 10-174) the Justices dismissed the suit that contested the right for the EPA to determine the regulations regarding climate change and emissions. Thus, the EPA will continue to hold jurisdiction, so to speak, in regards to what state utilities companies are permitted to do.

The ruling from the Court in AEP v. Connecticut serves as a message to utilities companies, such as Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which has recently spent approximately $3.7 million in lobbying Congress to reduce the impact of EPA regulations. EEI’s goal in lobbying was to decrease the strict regulations it would be forced to adhere to, in regards to clean air, clean energy, greenhouse gases, and more. The EEI has had a history of lobbying on this issue, going back to its $4.2 million in 2010’s first quarter, and $3.3 million in the fourth quarter of the same year. Despite these efforts, the Court continues to protect the Agency over private companies in the clean tech industry.

In addition to Congress, the EEI has also lobbied the US Department of Energy, US Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission to gain grounds on the issue. The outcome of such efforts is thus far unknown, but it would appear to be difficult to garner more power over regulation. The federal government has bolstered funding to the clean/green tech industry through President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill that included $43 billion for energy, but it is still unknown the impact that this have on the certainty of the future of the industry. In the meantime, private utilities companies will have to remain under the EPA’s regulations, as the Supreme Court has determined, for the indefinite future.

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