Jul. 3, 2022

Clean Air Act diluted by SCOTUS

In a 6-3 decision, the openly partisan and undemocratic court ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought by fossil-fuel producing states against the EPA. The case, West Virginia v. EPA, strips power from regulatory agencies and advances the Republican agenda to end government oversight in matters of the environment, fossil fuels and carbon reduction. The result of the ruling is that the EPA cannot use the Clean Air Act to phase out fossil fuel power plants.

States can still pass regulatory laws in this area. A few states now have economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions limits, often called Global Warming Solutions Acts. California and Massachusetts were the first states to pass such laws. But such efforts are a pebble in the sea.

The court left the door open for the Biden administration to set standards using site specific opportunities, as well as other systemic ways to reduce emissions that do not require generation shifting. But, with our polarized legislators, it is difficult to pass regulation legislation. For example, our congress was barely able to pass a diluted gun bill even after the horrors of Uvalde.

In the meantime, while fossil fuel providers are seen as likely to use the decision to delay decarbonization and challenge future laws with litigation, clean energy is getting cheaper, which could accelerate the move away from fossil fuels without government intervention.

In an era of crises, global warming increasingly stands out as the single greatest emergency humanity faces. Global heating is driving extreme heatdrought and flooding in the US and around the world. It’s driving wildfire and ecosystem collapse, and may already be contributing to famine and warfare. Crucially, this is all worsening day by day, and it will continue to worsen until we regulate the fossil fuel industry and carbon emissions.

These are the stakes of this Supreme Court decision, which adds another layer on to already daunting strata of blocks to climate action. More than a quarter of members of Congress are still hard climate deniers. These 139 Republican members (more than half of the Republican total, including Mitch McConnell) have accepted $61m so far in direct contributions from the fossil fuel industry, not including “indirect” support. Many other members of Congress also accept fossil fuel money, including Democrats; indeed, the politician who takes the most is Joe Manchin from a coal state, and four of the top 10 are also Democrats.

Of course, the EPA was formed under a Republican administration, Nixon created the agency. But over the decades, Republicans have become staunch climate change deniers and block any legislation that could curb carbon emissions. Many people vote for conservatives based on economic policies forgetting that without a livable ecology, there is no economy.

This highly political court has set civil liberties back by a half a century and now, the court has made yet another devastating decision for humanity in keeping the fossil fuel industry in firm control of our economy and a ruined environment. How can these prolife judges not realize that clean air is the basis of life. Thank the folks that voted for conservatives over the years for this anti-democratic, conservative SCOTUS.