U.S. Supreme Court Strips EPA's Power to Curb Pollution
Friday, July 1, 2022
The Environmental Protection Agency now has fewer tools to fight climate change, after the U.S. Supreme Court stripped the agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants.
The Court's 6-3 ruling along party lines involves the 2015 Clean Power Plan. The majority ruled it is unlawful for federal agencies to make "major" decisions without clear authorization from Congress.
Jayson O'Neill, director of the Western Values Project, predicted existing laws in both "blue" and "red" states that go further than federal laws to protect air quality could be eliminated.
"Our government's ability to protect us from corporate pollution, including climate emissions, is nearly wiped out," O'Neill stressed. "Our future's in question."
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., called the court's decision a "major step backwards" at a time when hydrocarbons are fueling more destructive wildfires, reducing snowpack and contributing to the state's worst drought in 1,200 years.
Thursday marked the end of the high court's current term, which also saw explosive rulings on abortion and guns.
In handing down its ruling in the EPA case, the court invoked the "major questions" doctrine, a decision which could affect the federal government's authority to regulate in other areas, including the internet and worker safety.
Andres Restrepo, senior attorney for the Sierra Club, believes the ruling is dangerous.
"It really is something that has the risk of metastasizing in a way that could really hinder the government's ability to keep us safe," Restrepo cautioned.
O'Neill expects to see a flood of lawsuits by corporations challenging federal rules protecting human health and the environment.
"Put another feather in the hat that corporations have essentially more rights than individuals," O'Neill contended. "And that they would be able to challenge laws that protect individual health and win those cases, for their profits."
The court's ruling does recognize the EPA's authority and responsibility to limit climate pollution from cars and trucks, oil and gas development and industrial sites.
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