Industry groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, also claimed victory. The group said in a statement that the decision was a "stark reminder that the EPA's power is not unlimited."
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The justices were split in multiple ways in the case. The four liberals voted with Scalia on one point but would have ruled for EPA on all counts. Conservative justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would have ruled against the government across the board.
According to the American Chemistry Council, one of the challengers, 83 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that could potentially be regulated under the EPA's interpretation of the law would still be covered as a result of the ruling, compared with the 86 percent of emissions that the EPA had hoped to regulate.
Under the program, the operators have to show they are using the best technology available to reduce emissions of the covered pollutants. More than 300 facilities have already applied for permits.
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The Supreme Court decision is not expected to affect the Obama administration's ability to set air pollution standards for greenhouse gases under a separate provision of the Clean Air Act. On June 2, the White House announced proposed rules calling for 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, including coal-fired facilities.
The case is Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency et al, U.S. Supreme Court No. 12-1146.
— By Reuters