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Attorney General Kilmartin Commends US Supreme Court Decision Upholding Limits on Greenhouse Gas Pollution

2011 Greenhouse Gas Regulations Made By President Obama Mostly Upheld

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today commended the United States Supreme Court for ruling in favor of much the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2011 regulations curbing greenhouse gases from large polluters. The ruling was issued Monday. Seven Justices coalesced in upholding the rules, but could not completely agree on the reasoning.

The regulations were part of the first batch of regulations that implement the EPA's authority to regulate carbon-based climate-change pollution. The regulations govern new plants and upgrades. The State of Rhode Island, represented by Kilmartin's office, is an intervenor in support of EPA in the case, which is called Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.

"This marks the second major Supreme Court victory for Rhode Island and like-minded states in the last several months" said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Earlier this year, the Court upheld restrictions on cross-border pollution that drifts here with the westerly winds. We were active in that suit too." Kilmartin was referring to the April 29 Supreme Court ruling in EME Homer City Production v. EPA upholding limits on interstate pollution.

The issue in front of the Supreme Court on Monday was whether EPA could regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from big power plants, refineries, and industrial boilers that make plant modifications or expansions. (Existing plants that operate without change were not at issue and are dealt with under the separate set of regulations proposed earlier this month.)

The Court held that the EPA had this authority but, in a minor setback for EPA, disagreed with EPA's method of targeting the largest polluters. In practical terms, however, the Court's method has almost the same reach.

In January, Attorney General Kilmartin joined 14 other states on a Supreme Court brief in the case. An equal number of states, however, mostly from the South, took the side of the fossil fuel industry in seeking to overturn the regulations. In February, the Supreme Court heard arguments.

The rules upheld on Monday stem from the landmark decision in the 2007 case, Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Supreme Court ruled that in the Clean Air Act, Congress gave EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases. After Massachusetts v. EPA, the EPA took several significant actions including regulations to limit emissions from cars and regulations to do the same with respect to new or newly-modified major plants.

In June 2012, a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, upheld both the car regulations and the power plant regulations. The Supreme Court did not even consider the car regulations, letting that portion of the lower court decision stand. The Supreme Court only reviewed the plant and refinery portion, which have now been upheld.

Attorney General Kilmartin has been a leader in fighting greenhouse gases. For example, recently he offered funds recovered in an anti-pollution suit to help the Town of Portsmouth rebuild its wind turbine.

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