Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s a roundup of Garland’s more recent power sector rulings.
July 2015: On Backup Generators
Chief Judge Garland and senior circuit Judges Williams and Randolph repealed part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule allowing backup generators to operate without emissions controls for up to 100 hours annually.
Case title: DE Department of Natural Res. v. EPA
April 2014: Upholds MATS Rule
Chief Judge Garland joined Judge Rogers (Judge Kavanaugh wrote the dissent) in upholding the EPA’s controversial Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). The court ruled that the agency is not required to take costs into account when it promulgates rules that are “appropriate and necessary” to address hazards to public health.
Case title: White Stallion Energy Center, LLC v. EPA
March 2014: Rejects Challenges to NSPS
Writing the court’s opinion, Chief Judge Garland rejected challenges to the EPA’s 2009 and 2012 final rules revising the new source performance standards for steam generating units. The reason: “Several of the petitioners’ challenges are not properly before us because they were first raised in petitions for reconsideration that remain pending before the agency.”
Case title: Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA
August 2013: A Dissenting Opinion as D.C. Circuit Orders NRC to Resume Yucca Mountain
In a 2–1 ruling, the D.C. Circuit said inaction by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the direction of the Obama administration “is simply flouting the law.” The court took the unusual step of issuing a writ of mandamus to the NRC.
Judge Kavanaugh wrote the opinion in this case and Judge Randolph concurred. But Chief Judge Garland dissented, saying that issuing a mandamus order was not necessary.
“Unfortunately,” Garland said, “granting the writ in this case will indeed direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do ‘a useless thing.’ The NRC has not refused to proceed with the Yucca Mountain application. Rather, by unanimous votes of both the commission and its Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, it has suspended the application proceeding until there are sufficient funds to make meaningful progress.”
Court order: Aiken County et. al
May 2013: Dismisses Sunflower Appeal of Suit Delaying Coal Plant Construction
Chief Judge Garland joined Judges Rogers and Griffith in dismissing an appeal by Sunflower Electric of a ruling requiring environmental review of Sunflower’s proposed 875-MW coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kansas. The decision let stand a January 2013 district court decision that found in favor of environmental group the Sierra Club and ruled that the Rural Utilities Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, must complete an environmental impact study before granting any approvals to Sunflower for its proposed Holcomb plant.
Case title: Sierra Club v. USDA et. al
June 2012: Challenges NRC Decision to Extend Onsite Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage
Circuit Judges Garland, Henderson, and Rogers unanimously ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) erred in deciding that spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s power plants could be stored as long as 60 years after a plant’s operating license expires. The decision was a victory for four states (New York, New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut.), the Prairie Island Indian Community, and a number of environmental groups that had challenged a 2010 update to the NRC’s Waste Confidence Decision.
Case title: Vermont Department of Public Service et al. v. USA, NRC
July 2005: Standing to Sue
Judge Garland joined the panel opinion holding that environmental groups had standing to sue the Department of Interior for issuing a permit for a power plant in the vicinity of Yellowstone National Park and a federal wilderness area even though they showed injury but not court redressibility.
Case title: National Parks Conservation Association v. Manson
—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)