Mother Jones reports: Merrick Garland has spent the last decade in the weeds of some of the most contentious clean air cases in history — and he’s consistently come out on the side of the environment and against big polluters.
Garland, the DC Circuit Court chief judge who is President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, faces a steep climb to confirmation in the face of fierce opposition from Senate Republicans.
But if Garland makes it to the Supreme Court, the battle over Obama’s flagship climate regulations will likely be one of his first big cases. That policy, known as the Clean Power Plan, aims to slash the nation’s carbon footprint by restricting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency built the plan on a provision of the Clean Air Act that allows it to set emissions standards for existing “stationary” sources (i.e., power plants, rather than, say, cars) and then leave it up to each state to choose how to reach that standard. The rule was immediately challenged by two dozen coal-reliant states, which have argued that it oversteps EPA’s legal authority because it applies to the whole electricity system rather than to individual power plants. Shortly before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to put the plan on hold while Garland’s current colleagues in the DC circuit court weigh its legality.
The climate regulations will likely wind up in front of SCOTUS sometime next year. So, Garland’s record on cases involving the Clean Air Act—which many legal experts see as the world’s single most powerful piece of environmental law—is a helpful guide for how he might rule. Garland once described the Clean Air Act as “this nation’s primary means of protecting the safety of the air breathed by hundreds of millions of people.” [Continue reading…]