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Reconciliation language bolsters EPA clean air authority

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to clear delegation from that representative body,” Roberts said.

While West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and staffers from both parties have agreed that the law Biden signed does not supersede the ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, a case centered on the methods by which the agency can regulate emissions, it can more explicitly establish the authority of the agency to do so.

David Doniger, senior strategic director of the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the language of the new law “will make it much harder” for groups pushing to erode Massachusetts against the EPA, or for any group to argue that the agency cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Republicans initially expressed concern that the Reconciliation Act included broader regulatory language, but that provision was eventually removed after decisions by the Senate congressman and negotiations with Democrats. Republican staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said that because the definition describing greenhouse gases was only included in the amendments and not in the overarching definition section of the air quality, there is a legal distinction.

But Doniger said that as the EPA faces future battles over the impact its standards might have, these amendments will give the agency congressional language to cite.