CEH Condemns Supreme Court’s Decision Gutting EPA’s Ability to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA undermines the agency’s ability to regulate emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants under the Clean Air Act, endangering public health and the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions from these power plants contributed to 25% of 2020 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. is responsible for the largest share of the world’s cumulative total GHG emissions (20%). Despite growing awareness of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. This decision marks a major embarrassment for a country that has the resources and responsibility to confront one of the greatest crises on the planet.     

“Greenhouse gasses emitted by fossil fuel power plants not only contribute to global warming, but most are either toxic or are co-pollutants of toxic chemicals; in other words, these are dirty, harmful chemicals contaminating our air,” said Sarah Packer, Director of CEH’s Petrochemicals, Plastics & Climate program. “We know that those who contribute the least to climate change and pollution are the ones who suffer the most from it. This conservative, partisan decision not only represents a win for polluters and a loss for people and the planet, but yet another blow to democracy and the separation of powers.”    

CEH agrees with Justice Kagan’s comment in her dissent, “Whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change.  And let’s say the obvious: The stakes here are high.  Yet the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions.  The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decision maker on climate policy.  I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

This decision, along with their rulings to expand gun access and restrict abortion and privacy rights, is part of well-funded, conservative, corporate-favoring effort to undermine the federal government’s authority to protect human and environmental health and uphold civil rights. The Majority invents a new “major question doctrine” to substitute its judgment for that of Congress. This new made up doctrine will invite lower court conservative judges to strike down regulations protecting public health.

“The Court’s conservative majority are also the ones that ruled that corporations are people and money is speech,” said Tom Fox, Senior Policy Advisor at CEH. “They have given big polluters the right to spend unlimited anonymous dark money in politics, hamstringing Congress’s ability to act on climate change, protecting women’s rights, protecting voting rights, etc. To predict how the Conservative Majority will rule, just ask the question: who wins, and who loses?”

In light of this abuse of power and the potential for future abuses under this Court, we call on the Biden administration to take executive action to regulate polluters including the fossil fuel industry and prioritize people and planet over profit. 

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