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Looming High Court Shift May Spur Calls For Hill Action on Environment

The expected Supreme Court shift to a 6-3 conservative majority may spur calls for Congress to advance legislation on environmental issues including climate change, because the court may be more skeptical of EPA and other agencies’ regulatory authority, making it harder to implement new rules, legal experts say.

Appellate judges at oral argument in litigation over EPA’s 2019 renewable fuel standard (RFS) focused their queries on the agency’s power to grant compliance waivers to small refiners retroactively, its refusal to boost biofuel blending targets to compensate for the lack of waivers, and critics’ claim of environmental harm from the program.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is criticizing announcements from California and China on plans to reduce greenhouse gases, describing as infeasible the Golden State’s broad climate plan mandating that all new passenger vehicles sold in the state starting in 2035 have zero emissions and calling China’s effort an empty promise.

California is leading a coalition of 20 mostly Democratic-led states along with several cities and territories in a threat to file a new lawsuit over the Trump administration’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) streamlining rule over endangered species concerns, while the White House has issued a new NEPA “emergency” guidance.