West Virginia vs. EPA at Supreme Court: Energy costs at stake as Ukraine-Russia war rages

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The Supreme Court listened to oral arguments last week on the biggest energy-related case heard in years, West Virginia v. EPA, which ultimately could see the Environmental Protection Agency lose some of its regulatory powers – all while gas prices surge amid Russia's war on Ukraine.

The case tackles whether the EPA can issue significant rules capable of reshaping the nation’s electricity grids without congressional authority, addressing the ramifications of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. 

"If the Supreme Court rules in favor of West Virginia and the other state plaintiffs, it means that the Biden administration, if it wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through regulation or taxation… [will] have to go to Congress," Myron Ebell, the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told FOX Business.

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Other experts in the industry expressed similar sentiments. Gregory Wrightstone, executive director of The C02 Coalition, said if the court upholds the EPA’s authority, it'll be one more regulation strangling America's energy freedom.

"This continuation of EPA regulation of greenhouse gases will lead to the continued destruction of that reliable energy sources," Wrightstone shared.

President of the Judicial Crisis Network Carrie Severino told FOX Business this case served as an example of the constitutional gray zone within the regulatory state.  

"We have seen so much overgrowth of the administrative state beyond what our framers could have even fathomed. We were never designed to have a fourth branch of government that is this enormous regulatory state," Severino said.

However, Michael Panfil of the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group, says depending on the outcome, the ruling has the power to weaken the nation’s ability to deal with "dangerous emissions." He adds that the "new legal theories the challengers are advocating could interfere with the federal government’s ability to address other pressing problems through law." 

Assembly member Vince Fong represents Kern County, which produces 70% of the oil in California. He told FOX Business, "To further tighten regulations would continue to choke out energy production, resulting in thousands of lost middle- and working-class jobs and will be a significant hit to our economy." 

President Biden announced during his State of the Union address last month, "The United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world" amid the war in Ukraine. Biden added, "America will lead that effort, releasing 30 million barrels from our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve." 

Gas prices are advertised at almost $7 a gallon Monday, March 7, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Newsroom)

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Wrightstone responded to President Biden’s comment: "The world uses about 100 million barrels of oil per day, so if we did that, it would get us from midnight to around 9 a.m." 

Additionally, on Tuesday, Biden announced the U.S. would ban imports of Russian oil, but did not elaborate on how else the administration would work to curb spiking gas prices.

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Rich Goldberg, a former senior official at the National Security Council under President Trump, argued that the Biden administration has been hostile to U.S. energy. "We need to be doing all we can to save every possible green light… to increase American production of energy to compensate for the rising prices due to lower supply from Russia." 

If West Virginia v. EPA rules in favor of enacting the Clean Power Plan, it would be the first national regulatory standard to address greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The ruling would be costly for energy companies, calling on power plants to install more efficient technologies and make changes needed to meet requirements. 

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