High court adds climate change, immigration cases to docket

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Over the objections of the Biden administration, the Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider a climate change case that could limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The court also said it would hear a Republican-led immigration challenge.

The earliest the cases will be argued is 2022 and, as is typical, the high court did not explain its decision to take either case. Both are unusual, however, in that the Biden administration either has changed or said it will change the rules at the center of each case.

On climate change, the court will review the decision of a federal appeals court that struck down one of the Trump administration’s most momentous climate rollbacks. The Biden administration has said it is working on a replacement rule.

As a practical matter, the decision to review the ruling in the case will probably make it harder for the Biden administration to move forward with a new rule to regulate planet-warming carbon emissions from the power sector.

West Virginia, leading a coalition of 19 mostly Republican-led states, and coal companies told the high court in asking it to take the case that the appeals court’s ruling would give the EPA almost unlimited authority to regulate in a way that would harm the coal industry.

“How we respond to climate change is a pressing issue for our nation, yet some of the paths forward carry serious and disproportionate costs for States and countless other affected parties,” the states wrote in urging the court to take the case. “Continued uncertainty over the scope of EPA’s authority will impose costs we can never recoup.”

In a statement posted on Twitter after the court agreed to hear the case, EPA administrator Michael Regan said: “Power plant carbon pollution hurts families and communities, and threatens businesses and workers. The Courts have repeatedly upheld EPA’s authority to regulate dangerous power plant carbon pollution.”

The court also will consider whether Republican-led states can take over the defense of a Trump-era rule denying green cards to immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps, after the Biden administration dropped the legal challenges.

A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld a lower court order striking down the Trump-era rule nationwide. In March, the Biden administration announced an agreement with the parties and states challenging the rule and also dropped its objections to the appellate decision.

The administration proposed a new rule in August.

Under the Trump administration policy, applicants for green cards had to show they wouldn’t be burdens to the country or “public charges.”

Federal law already required those seeking permanent residency or legal status to prove they wouldn’t be a “public charge.” But the Trump administration rule included a wider range of programs that could disqualify them, like Medicaid, housing vouchers or other public benefits.

The immigration case is being led by the state of Arizona.

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