Much ado is being made of recent amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA) contained in the Biden administration’s budget reconciliation law passed in mid-August, commonly referred to as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). And with good reason, as the law includes the most significant changes to the CAA since 1990, and the new sections formally define greenhouse gases (GHGs) as an “air pollutant,” consistent with the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA.
However, the IRA amendments to the CAA do not in fact make significant substantive changes in law. Legally speaking, they can’t, given that the IRA is merely a reconciliation bill through which Congress may only assign funding. More to the point, none of the IRA amendments to the CAA address in any way the limitations the Supreme Court recently placed on EPA’s authority to adopt climate change regulation in West Virginia v. EPA, notwithstanding some characterizations to the contrary.