Written by: Madison Mayhew, IPL Federal Policy Advocate
Yesterday morning, in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court released their decision for West Virginia v. EPA. In a devastating blow, the court ultimately sided with coal companies and their allies and limited the EPA from setting the standards we need to address climate pollution.
The court’s decision does not strip the EPA of its authority entirely, but it does significantly reduce its power. However, it does recognize EPA’s authority and responsibility to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act, including EPA’s responsibility to limit climate pollution from fossil fuel power plants, cars and trucks, oil and gas development, and industrial sites, but it constrains EPA’s authority to rely on clean energy solutions the power industry itself identified as the most common, proven and cost-effective.
The Supreme Court has handed a victory to the well-coordinated and well-funded efforts of polluters and their allies, who clearly place profits over people. Public health, science, the rule of law, and our climate lost while the special interests of the coal industry won. This ruling will make it difficult for the Biden administration to reach its climate targets and for future administrations to take action to address the climate crisis.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan said: “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.”
Her dissent gets to the heart of the matter. For decades, Congress has been writing laws and allowing agencies with the scientific and technical knowledge to develop rules that fulfill the intent of laws like the Clean Air Act. Agency staff have the expertise to make increasingly technical decisions in a way that no unelected Supreme Court justice possibly could.
As people of faith, we have a moral responsibility to care for our neighbors, our common home, and to protect our children’s future and that means taking action to address climate change. We need every tool in the toolbox to stop the forthcoming onslaught of climate disasters and to protect frontline communities from harmful pollution. While today’s misguided ruling damages some important tools, it’s essential we take full advantage of those that remain to make the reductions we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The good news is that Congress still has the power to do what the Court will not, which is why we’re calling on them to take bold and just action now by delivering the $550 billion in investments in climate and clean energy through Reconciliation. Congressional action can accelerate a just transition to a clean energy future and help protect the climate for our beloved communities—in spite of the Court’s obstruction.
We need your voice to join us – with messages directly to your legislators, letters to editor in your newspaper, and social media posts – to make the public call for climate action clear. Together, we can build a just future where everyone can thrive.