The agency can still regulate carbon pollution, just not in the most efficient, system-wide ways.
Today’s major environmental ruling from the Supreme Court, West Virginia v. EPA, is probably most notable for what it did not do.
It did not say that the Environmental Protection Agency is prohibited from regulating heat-trapping carbon pollution from America’s existing power plants.
It also did not strip the EPA of its ability to regulate climate pollution at all.
In short, it did not, as some progressives feared, blast away any possibility of using the federal government’s environmental powers to solve climate change, the biggest environmental problem of our time.
Yet its effects will be felt for years to come. The ruling limits the EPA’s ability to regulate climate change, but leaves enough room that the agency still must try to do so. With these constraints, the Court is forcing the agency to approach the problem of carbon pollution with brute-force tools. In short, the Court has ensured that climate regulation, when it comes, will prove both more cumbersome and more expensive for almost everyone involved.