D.C. Circuit Vacates and Remands Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule
On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule (“ACE Rule”), which itself was a rollback of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (“CPP”); once again reshaping the heart of American climate policy. American Lung Association v. EPA, No. 19-1140 (D.C. Cir., Jan. 19, 2021). The CPP and ACE Rule both sought to regulate greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from existing stationary sources but used highly divergent interpretations of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) to do so. In making its ruling, the Court called the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of the CAA a “fundamental misconstruction” of the statute and provided a lengthy analysis of its findings. Id. at 16. The Court ultimately held that because the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) based the ACE Rule “on an erroneous view of the law” (as opposed to having based the ACE Rule on a valid exercise of agency discretion), the court had no choice but to vacate the rule and remand it to the EPA for additional interpretation. Id. at 46. Because President Biden has described climate change as the “existential threat of our time,” the Biden EPA will likely use this opportunity to draft new rulemaking regarding the regulation of GHG emissions.
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