Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation; American Lung Association v. EME Homer City Generation

Term: 2013 Term
Oral Argument Date: December 10, 2013
Vote: 6-2
Opinion: Ginsburg

Question(s) Presented

1.Whether the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction to consider the challenges on which it granted relief.

2.Whether States are excused from adopting SIPs prohibiting emissions that "contribute significantly" to air pollution problems in other States until after the EPA has adopted a rule quantifying each State's interstate pollution obligations.

3.Whether the EPA permissibly interpreted the statutory term "contribute significantly" so as to define each upwind State's "significant" interstate air pollution contributions in light of the cost-effective emission reductions it can make to improve air quality in polluted downwind areas, or whether the Act instead unambiguously requires the EPA to consider only each upwind State's physically proportionate responsibility for each downwind air quality problem.

U.S. Chamber's Position

The U.S. Chamber asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a decision by the D.C. Circuit to invalide the EPA's "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule" - also known as the "Transport Rule" - a sweeping regulation that imposes expensive and unlawful regulatory burdens on energy producers in "upwind states." 

The Chamber's amicus brief argues that the EPA’s new air quality regulations exceed the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The Act’s “good-neighbor” provision requires state implementation plans to address emissions from upwind States that “contribute significantly” to “nonattainment” of air quality standards in downwind States. In the Transport Rule, however, EPA disregarded the express limits on its authority under that provision, imposing air quality controls to reduce emissions regardless of whether the emissions contribute to nonattainment and regardless of whether attainment could be achieved with less extensive controls.

Rather than adhere to its statutory mandate, EPA effectively treated the Act as a license to regulate interstate air pollution to whatever extent it found to be in the public interest. That leveraging of the good-neighbor provision into a license for general regulation of interstate emissions will have significant adverse impacts on the economy. The Chamber's amicus brief explains to the Court that the EPA's authority over emissions from "upwind states" is limited to the amounts that those emissions will contribute to the inability of "downwind states" to "attain" or reach the federally established emissions standards.

The Chamber's amicus brief lays out that the text of the Clean Air Act unambiguously limits EPA's authority, and the history of the Clean Air Act reaffirms the "good neighbor" provision's narrow grant of authority to the EPA. The brief also rebuts the EPA's argument that it would just be "too complicated" to follow the text of the statute. 

Jeffrey A. Lamken, Robert K. Kry, and Hassan A. Shah of MoloLamken LLP represented the U.S. Chamber as co-counsel to the National Chamber Litigation Center, Inc. 

Case Outcome

The Supreme Court agreed with the EPA that the Transport Rule is a permissible exercise of the EPA’s authority under a provision of the Clean Air Act called the “Good Neighbor” provision.

Justices in Majority
Breyer
Ginsburg
Kagan
Roberts
Sotomayor
Justices in Minority
Scalia
Thomas
Procedural History

Cert. petitions filed 3/29/13.

Cert. granted and consolidated with American Lung Association v. Homer City Generation (11-1183) 6/24/13.

U.S. Chamber merits amicus brief in support of respondents filed 11/7/13.

Decided 4/29/2014.

Case Documents