The outcome of those cases could determine whether the battle over U.S. environmental policy will turn the tide for states, where some will undermine protections such as others continue to pursue strict limits on emissions of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution.
“West Virginia is likely to become part of the number of cases that this conservative Supreme Court typically cuts,” said William Buzbee, department director of the Georgetown University Law Center’s environmental law and policy program. federal regulatory authority to attack new problems.
“Of course, states can go above and beyond what federal law requires,” he added. “Many states do. But a lot of states don’t. “
During the fall term beginning in October, the Supreme Court will bring Challenges to the Clean Water Act that could narrow the law’s reach in ways businesses and developers have long sought. Meanwhile, in the lower courts, the Republican attorney general fight to stop The Biden administration makes climate change key decisions and cuts climate pollutants from vehicle exhaust.
inside majority opinion In West Virginia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the EPA can only make sweeping changes to the nation’s electricity sector with explicit approval from Congress. But the legislators didn’t grant that to the agency, partisan division environmental issues over the past few decades.
The EPA “must indicate “congressional explicit authorization” for the power it claims,” wrote Roberts in the majority opinion, attended by Judges Samuel A. Alito Jr., Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas.
Katie Tubb, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the courts have the power to limit the EPA’s powers.
“Many people on the left want the EPA to regulate emissions to achieve a radical climate agenda,” Tubb said. “But the problem in this country is who makes those decisions. In my view, it is important that the representatives of the United States are the people… rather than the officials who are not elected in the EPA.”
Jody Freeman, a professor at Harvard Law School, said that the court may have gone further in limiting the EPA’s authority. The majority allows the agency to continue to regulate carbon emissions from power plants — it cannot do so by forcing utility companies to switch from coal to renewables.
“There is something of a silver lining here,” says Freeman. “It leaves a path for the EPA to still set meaningful standards.”
However, West Virginia Legal scholars said the ruling may not bode well for the Biden administration given the challenge to the Clean Water Act expected this fall. In that case, Sackett v. EPA, conservative judges can also found that the EPA exceeded its authority when it came to regulating the nation’s wetlands and waterways, despite the lack of clear guidance from Congress.
Dan Farber, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said: “The court had a strong message for the EPA not to over-read its jurisdiction. “And that would certainly be futile in terms of Sackett. “
The Clean Water Act lawsuit is a long-running dispute involving an Idaho couple, Chantell, and Mike Sackett, who attempted to build a home on their land near Priest Lake. The couple said their plans were thwarted by an EPA order that determined the property contained a wetland and that they needed a federal permit.
The case raises questions about what constitutes “the waters of the United States,” which the Clean Water Act was passed to protect in 1972. The Sacketts favored a narrower definition proposed by the late Justice Antonin Scalia is recommended and supported by business groups like the US. Chamber of Commerce. If they prevailed, by some estimates, 90% of federally managed waterways in the US would lose protections.
“Over the past 30 to 40 years, the Clean Water Act has evolved into something more than just a basic water quality program,” said Damien Schiff, senior counsel at the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Sacketts. “In fact, it has become something of a small federal zoning rule.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Attorney General is pushing to block Biden from raising a key metric that takes into account the real costs of climate change. This indicator, called the social cost of carbon, applicable to consequential decisions affecting fossil fuel extraction on public lands, infrastructure projects, and even international climate negotiations.
Supreme Court in May allow Biden management, for now, continues to look at the social costs of climate change as it writes down new regulations and strengthens existing ones. But there is still the possibility that lower courts could get in the way used as the legal battle pushed forward.
“The social costs of carbon litigation – and in particular the willingness of states to take this to the Supreme Court – signals that there are groups that are actually willing to make aggressive legal arguments.” , it is often novel to challenge the actions of the Biden administration to address climate change,” said Kirti Datla, director of strategic legal advocacy for Earthjustice, an environmental law firm. .
Conservative politicians have also challenged Biden’s efforts to limit emissions from cars and light trucks, a major source of greenhouse gases. Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), a coalition of 15 Republican-led states sued the administration the final rule to reduce emissions from the exhaust, which would prevent billions of tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The lawsuit is pending in the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, one of the most important federal courts for environmental policy.
While the courts can limit the federal government’s ability to cut pollution from power plants, some states are moving ahead with clean energy requirements even as others are shirking them. aside.
About four in 10 Americans living in a state, city or territory have committed to 100% clean electricity by 2050, according to analysis by the League of Conservation Voters, an advocacy organization. Coporation, group. And 24 governors have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, according to the American Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors. Governor is committed to upholding the goals of the Paris climate accord.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown (D) signed one of the nation’s most aggressive clean energy plans last year. The plan requires the state’s largest utility companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030, 90% by 2045 and 100% by 2040. That timeline is similar to the target. Biden’s goal is to eliminate emissions from the nation’s electricity sector by 2035.
“No matter what the Supreme Court of the United States decides, we will continue to move forward because we are witnessing the effects of climate change,” Brown said in an interview. deadly forest fire, blistering heat wave and severe drought driven by rising global temperatures.
In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont (D) last month signed into law a goal of achieving a zero-carbon grid by 2040. The measure comes after Connecticut’s last coal-fired power plant. is offlineended a 53-year run, as it struggled to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables.
“Investing in a clean, resilient grid is something Connecticut and many states have long prioritized because of the huge benefits – jobs and economic growth that come with investing in clean, natural energy.” home-grown, cleaner air and better health for our children and families, and better protection from the extreme weather and price fluctuations that come with dependence on fossil fuels jelly,” Lamont said in a statement.
Under the leadership of Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, Virginia went in the opposite direction. Youngkin announced the plan withdrawing the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to cut carbon emissions from the power sector in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, calling it a “bad deal” for consumers.
Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania also tried to block Democratic Governor Tom Wolf from joining the group. The issue will be decided in November, when voters will elect a new Pennsylvania governor for the first time in eight years. GOP candidate Doug Mastriano warned that the program will cut jobs in the energy industry.
Meanwhile, in Nebraska – the red state that Donald Trump took with 58.7% of the vote in the 2016 presidential election – three public facilities have all pledged to reach net emissions by 2050 by 2050. .
This decision was largely driven by business demand for clean power. Big companies like Facebook have set up data centers in Nebraska, the third windiest state in the country, in hopes of meeting their pledge to use 100% renewable energy.
“The market is moving towards clean energy regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court decision,” said Chelsea Johnson, deputy director of Nebraska Conservation Voters. “Federal regulation can help, but it’s not everything, especially when economics means a lot even without regulation.”