Rhode Island is doing the work on climate change, but we can’t do it alone, says DEM and CLF“…climate change is a global crisis that Rhode Island can’t solve alone and we need strong federal action. The Supreme Court took one tool from the EPA’s toolkit, but there’s still a lot that it can and must do to regulate climate-damaging emissions.”
Published on June 30, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist
The United States Supreme Court has gutted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ability to reduce emissions from power plants with its decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency. And though Rhode Island is doing the hard work of fighting climate change, we can’t do it without federal help, says Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Terry Gray in a statement.
“Today’s damaging decision will have little impact on DEM’s ability to regulate power plant sources in Rhode Island,” said Director Gray. “Even this, however, must be tempered by the fact that pollution from upwind states that continue to burn fossil fuels will travel in the atmosphere and ultimately arrive in Rhode Island, affecting our air quality. Strong, forward-looking laws like the Act on Climate, the statutory commitment to move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2033, and the significant investment in offshore wind power and the related infrastructure show Rhode Island’s commitments and leadership on the response to this global crisis…”
CLF attorney James Crowley agrees, saying that, “In weakening the federal government’s ability to reduce power plant emissions, today’s decision underscores the importance of state action.
“Thankfully,” continued Crowley, “Rhode Island is among a group of states that are already taking steps to slash emissions from electricity, even without a federal mandate. Rhode Island is a national leader in its commitment to curbing power plant emissions, with legislation requiring 100% renewable electricity by 2033 having been recently sign into law.
“Still, climate change is a global crisis that Rhode Island can’t solve alone and we need strong federal action. The Supreme Court took one tool from the EPA’s toolkit, but there’s still a lot that it can and must do to regulate climate-damaging emissions.”
In other words, we need the federal government to step up more, not less. As Director Gray notes, “The United States government has the duty and moral obligation to cut climate pollution, but by siding with the coal industry and its allies and blocking the EPA from setting effective power plant emissions standards, the Supreme Court has dealt a major blow to the federal government’s authority and ability to cut this pollution. The EPA is DEM’s strongest partner on a host of environmental protection laws and programs including clean air. The Clean Air Act is an extremely good investment, saving as many as 230,000 lives and delivering more than $30 in benefits for every $1 in cost.
“There is little question that the court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA will harm Americans’ health,” continued Director Gray. “Power plants are this country’s No. 1 source of deadly air pollution, contributing to tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses every year. These health impacts disproportionately burden communities of color. Even when factors like region and income level are considered, communities of color breathe more air pollution than white people.”