As the U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to attend a consequential United Nations climate summitThe Supreme Court of Scotland on Friday caused widespread alarm in Scotland agreeing to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit planet-heating pollution.
“The Supreme Court could destroy the planet. Pass it on,” tweetedRep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), as a response to the decision.
Republican-led states, and coal companies, asked the justices to weigh the case after the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit in January struck downAffordable Clean Energy (ACE Rule) issued under former President Donald Trump.
Just days before Biden took office, there was a three-judge panel divided. said that the Trump-era rule — intended to replace former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which never took effect — “hinged on a fundamental misconstruction” of a key section of the Clean Air Act that resulted from a “tortured series of misreadings” of the law.
The justices will now consider whether that section of the Clean Air Act “clearly authorizes EPA to decide such matters of vast economic and political significance as whether and how to restructure the nation’s energy system.”
Although there were some initial confusion about the forthcoming review due to a typo in Friday’s order that was later corrected, climate action advocates and legal experts frantically issued warnings about how a ruling from the high court’s right-wing supermajority may impede the Biden administration’s efforts to combat the climate emergency.
The Court Republicans have been handmaidens of fossil fuel, releasing their money through Citizens United and destroying the Clean Power Plan at their whim. This is alarming.https://t.co/QProtMklxb
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) October 29, 2021
“This is the equivalent of an earthquake around the country for those who care deeply about the climate issue,” Harvard University law professor Richard J. Lazarus told The New York Times. The court’s decision threatens “to sharply cut back, if not eliminate altogether, the new administration’s ability to use the Clean Air Act to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plant[s].”
This development comes one day after Biden announcedA $1.75 trillion watered down version of the Build back Better Act stripped out some climate provisions due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the corporate-backed, right-wing party members who has held up the package designed to include much of the president’s agenda.
Although the Biden administration is still working on ways to cut emissions that don’t rely on the section of the Clean Air Act in question, HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman explainedGiven current circumstances in Congress, how could a negative ruling by the Supreme Court cause problems?
“It’s only this one statute of the Clean Air Act, which is one of many tools the administration has,” Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center on Climate Change Law, told HuffPost. “I don’t think it’s a problem for most of the measures the administration might want. But there’s this one particular tool that might be in trouble.”
The court could, however, seek to “take this as an opportunity to rule more broadly about the ability of Congress to delegate decisions to agencies,” by going after the non-delegation doctrine, and might “say Congress is going to have to give EPA authority over such an important area and be more clear and explicit.”
This would be a victory for plaintiffs. The Senate is split 50-50, so Democrats must vote in lockstep in order to pass a bill. This gives Democrats unique power to give unrestricted power to senators like Manchin. Manchin’s opposition to climate regulations, and his family fortune in a coal company have made him a magnet of fossil fuel industry donations for the past year. He’d be unlikely to vote for legislation granting the EPA new powers to regulate greenhouse gases. And Republicans are favored to win back at least one chamber of Congress in next year’s midterm election.
This “is the most significant climate case to reach the Supreme Court since 2007, when the justices ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases could be regulated as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act,” noted E&E News.
As the petitioners, including 19 states led by West Virginia, celebrated the court’s announcement, campaigners such as David Doniger, senior strategic director at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate & Clean Energy program, vowed that “we will vigorously defend EPA’s authority to curb power plants’ huge contribution to the climate crisis.”
In a pair of tweets, Michael Regan, EPA Administrator, indicated that the Biden administration will continue its efforts to reduce climate-wrecking pollutants.
Carbon pollution from power plants can cause serious health problems for individuals and families as well as a threat to workers and businesses. The Courts have repeatedly upheld EPA’s authority to regulate dangerous power plant carbon pollution.
— Michael Regan, U.S. EPA (@EPAMichaelRegan) October 29, 2021
The federal agency, Regan vowed, “will continue to advance new standards to ensure that all Americans are protected from the power plant pollution that harms public health and our economy.”