Students from Professor Percival’s Environmental Law class visited the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to watch oral argument in the Clean Power Plan (CPP) cases on September 27. These consolidated cases challenge EPA’s regulations to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants. The CPP is a crucial part of the U.S. plan to control GHG emissions as promised in the global Paris Agreement reached last December.
Reflecting the importance of the cases and the large number of legal challenges being raised, the court on its own motion agreed to hear the case en banc. That meant that ten of the court’s eleven active judges (all but Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland) were on the bench. Although a total of three and a half hours was allotted for oral argument, the argument took nearly twice as long as scheduled.
“This was an extraordinary opportunity for students to watch the judges wrestle with the very legal questions we are studying in class,” Professor Percival observed. Questions included whether the CPP is consistent with the Clean Air Act and whether it violates constitutional principles of federalism.
“As a law student, it was incredible to watch such a cast of skilled litigators argue a case of such environmental significance,” noted Maryland 3L Laura Tallerico.
Eva Vordogianni, an LLM student from Greece, remarked that watching the argument made her appreciate “how what we learned in the classroom can be applied to the real world.”
For Maryland 2L Catherine McGrath, the argument had special significance because she had been an intern at EPA when the rule was first proposed and had followed its progress for more than two years. Student Devon Harman noted that the dialogue between the judges and counsel provided a glimpse into the diverse perspectives different judges brought to the argument.