PART THREE: The Court as Regulatory Referee

Michigan v. EPA

In addition to interpreting laws and applying the Constitution, the Supreme Court also regulates the regulators, and it played that part again this term. In a group of cases consolidated under the title Michigan v. EPA, the Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan for regulating certain types of power plants. [Read our Preview here.] Using the authority Congress gave it in § 7412 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), the EPA would have issued “appropriate and necessary” regulations to protect public health and then determine whether the costs of compliance meant the Agency had exceeded its authority. More than 20 states, along with a number of trade groups, asserted that the EPA had to account for costs before implementing any regulations. In a 5 – 4 opinion authored by Justice Scalia and joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, the Court agreed with the states.