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

Media Contacts

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 regulate carbon from power plants, holding that unless expressly delegated, that authority belongs to Congress. 

A recently-released PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center fact sheet lists the Pennsylvania power plants that spew the most climate change-causing pollution into the air. ​​The fact sheet shows that climate emissions from Pennsylvania’s 10 dirtiest power plants totaled more than 37 million metric tons in 2020 — equivalent to the annual emissions of over 8 million gas-powered cars. Electricity production is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

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, PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur 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. Pennsylvanians 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 Pennsylvania 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. 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.”


PennEnvironment hosted a news conference regarding this decision with Congressman Dwight Evans, State Senator Carolyn Comitta, and Philadelphia Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson. A recording of the conference is available at If you’d like a downloadable recording please reach out to Kelly Flanigan at [email protected]

PennEnvironment is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit