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Supreme Court limits EPA's greenhouse gas regulations, but not by much

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The Supreme Court reined in the Environmental Protection Agency in a ruling on Monday, but the limitations it imposed were slight and largely allow the agency to continue instating regulations on greenhouse gas emitters. In a long and complex ruling, the court found that one of the ways that the EPA had been regulating large bodies like power plants was illegal — namely, it had adjusted the specific language of a law addressing pollutants. However, the agency has other means to apply these regulations in most situations.

"EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case."

"[The] EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case," Justice Antonin Scalia says in a summery of the 5–4 decision, according to The New York Times. "It sought to regulate sources it said were responsible for 86 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources nationwide. Under our holdings, EPA will be able to regulate sources responsible for 83 percent of those emissions."

That's a small dip, and the court held that it was necessary to prevent the EPA from effectively rewriting a law. That, the justices felt, would have much wider implications if allowed, undermining the government's system of checks and balances. The court has previously upheld the EPA's ability to enforce pollution restrictions, and it's widely expected that today's ruling won't affect the Obama administration's strong actions to cut carbon pollution.