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

Media Contacts
Lisa Frank

Executive Director, Washington Legislative Office, Environment America; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network

WASHINGTON – 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 implement systemwide regulations of carbon from power plants, holding that unless expressly delegated, that authority belongs to Congress. 

Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund recently released a factsheet listing the 100 American power plants that spew the most climate change-causing pollution into the air. These 100 plants were responsible for 44.4% of global warming emissions from the power sector in 2020, despite only generating 19.2% of total electricity. 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 to the Supreme Court’s decision, Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office Executive Director Lisa Frank and U.S. PIRG’s Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale, J.D., issued the following statements:

“The Supreme Court just made the monumental task of cleaning up our air and reducing climate-warming pollution much, much harder,” said Frank. “Americans count on the EPA to protect our air and environment. Now that the Court has put a stable climate even further from reach, lawmakers at all levels of government must seek out other ways to reduce emissions and secure a clean and healthy future.”

“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,” said Casale. “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 state legislatures and corporate campaigns. And it’s time to end our reliance on fossil fuels.”