Statement: Supreme Court hamstrings EPA’s ability to tackle climate change

Media Contacts
Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

BOSTON – The Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision on the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) case Thursday, severely limiting the EPA’s authority to regulate climate pollution from power plants. Despite the fact that the Biden administration has yet to propose rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the Court issued a decision that severely limits the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon from power plants, holding that unless expressly delegated, that authority belongs to Congress.

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center and MASSPIRG Education Fund recently released a factsheet listing the 100 American power plants that spew the most climate change-causing pollution into the air. No power plants in Massachusetts made the list of the top 100 polluters, in part because of state and regional efforts like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that have reduced pollution from our electricity sector. Electricity production is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.’”

In response, Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court just made the monumental task of cleaning up our air and reducing climate-warming pollution much, much harder. Bay Staters count on the EPA to protect our air and environment. Now that the Court has put a stable climate even further from reach, lawmakers in Massachusetts must seek out other ways to reduce emissions and secure a clean and healthy future. The first step is to pass a climate bill before July 31 that includes the key provisions of the 100% Clean Act (H.3288), to set us on track to a 100% clean energy future.”

MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz said:

“This decision limiting the EPA’s authority undermines the nation’s commitment to addressing climate change. Like any powerful law, the Clean Air Act requires enforcement. Without that, the federal government is left with just blind hope that polluters will do what they’re supposed to. Congress should immediately amend the Clean Air Act to give the EPA full authority to do what needs to be done to address climate change. Additionally, there remain plenty of other ways to win cleaner air and a healthier climate. Now is no time for mourning — it’s time to refocus on other strategies and venues, including our state legislature and corporate campaigns. And it’s time to end our reliance on fossil fuels.”