Supreme Court hamstrings EPA’s ability to tackle climate change

Media Contacts
Doug O'Malley

State Director, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center


Trenton – The Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision on the West Virginia vs 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.Electricity production is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and NJPIRG Law and Policy Center recently released a factsheet listing the 100 American power plants that spew the most climate change-causing pollution into the air.

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 New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley issued the following statement:

“This ruling is a huge blow to climate progress and clean air everywhere. Dirty power plants are choking our skies and warming our planet. This wrongheaded decision will make it harder to clean up pollution, so New Jersey will need to use every other tool we have left to crack down on polluting power plants. And Congress needs to either give the EPA the permission it needs to do its job – or use its legislative power to curb pollution, accelerate the adoption of clean energy and mitigate climate change.”

“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.”

“New Jersey has the regulatory authority to be more stringent than the EPA and our regulatory authority to regulate carbon pollutants is still very much on the books. Our problem is that New Jersey is not an island and the air pollution from fossil fuel plants that drift into the state from the Midwest still foul our air and climate and pollute New Jersey’s resident lungs.”

“This is the culmination of a decades’ long legal strategy by the fossil industry and their fingerprints are all over this decision. In the words Justice Elena Kagan, today’s wrong-headed decision ‘deprives EPA of the power needed – and the power granted- to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases’ that fuel climate change, ‘the greatest environmental challenge of our time.’”

“This decision protects the coal and broader fossil fuel industry by saying that the Clean Air Act didn’t intend for EPA to reduce coal energy generation. This is an activist court providing economic protection for the coal industry and fossil fuels more broadly.”

“The Supreme Court might be telling New Jersey to drop dead, but it’s time for Congressional and state leadership. The climate crisis won’t wait even for six justices of the nation’s highest court. The time for action on the state level is now.”