Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably heard that on October 6 the U.S. Supreme Court had a new justice sworn in. New Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate after one of the ugliest nomination processes in our country’s history. Allegations of sexual assault plagued the new justice and left protestors banging on the Court’s doors during his swearing-in ceremony.
There is going to be a lot of news coverage about what Justice Kavanaugh means for the country, but it is also worth noting the impact he may have on energy policy. For the last 12 years, Justice Kavanaugh has been a judge on what many consider America’s second-most important court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This Court hears many important lawsuits that challenge actions by federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency. As the New York Times noted, in his time on the Appeals Court Justice Kavanaugh made two important environmental decisions that were later largely adopted later by the Supreme Court.
The first important decision was in the 2012 case, Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. Environmental Protection Agency. The Appeals Court upheld powerplant greenhouse gas regulations from the Obama Administration, but Justice Kavanaugh dissented, arguing the EPA had exceeded its authority by regulating carbon dioxide even though it is not the kind of “air pollutant” the Clean Air Act was supposed to cover. Then, in 2014, Kavanaugh again dissented in a case upholding powerplant emissions restrictions. In that case, White Stallion Energy v. Environmental Protection Agency, he argued that the EPA had exceeded its authority by failing to do a valid cost-benefit analysis on the rule.
Justice Kavanaugh’s history has led many experts to believe he will be quick to strike down environmental regulations that are not explicitly authorized by Congress. Pres. Obama got very creative in how he used existing laws to attack climate change because Congress was not going to act. Those efforts may be less likely to survive now, and it is likely that Pres. Trump will continue to roll them back anyways. Interestingly, most greenhouse gas regulations proposed or put in place in recent years have actually helped boost natural gas demand by forcing coal plants to shut down. Natural gas is far cleaner.
Repealing anti-coal regulations seems to do little to harm the natural gas industry, though. Most analysts say coal plants will continue to be replaced with natural gas and renewables regardless of what federal regulators say. Here at Cimmaron Land, we are helping people that are exploring for and producing that gas out in the Appalachian fields. If your company would like to start or increase activity in this area, just contact us today.