Environment

As Supreme Court guts environmental regulations, Senator Whitehouse counters with words

The “pro-life” Supreme Court handed down a decision that will help the fossil fuel industry murder the earth.
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Published on June 30, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

The United States Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its authority under the Clean Air Act to require fossil fuel plants to shift electricity generation to less polluting technology, such as solar and wind. It’s a deep attack on the fundamental ability of Congress to use administrative agencies to protect the public. It also means that state and local action will be critical in addressing the climate crisis.

“The Supreme Court’s new majority has hobbled EPA’s ability to reduce pollution from power plants, expanding an obscure doctrine into an all-purpose tool for the Court to stop agencies from acting on the most significant threats to human health and the environment,” said CLF President Bradley Campbell. “By arbitrarily limiting EPA’s explicit and broad authority under the Clean Air Act to require the use of less polluting systems, the Court has consigned millions of Americans to more illness, shorter lives, and greater poverty in an overheated climate, while giving itself nearly unlimited authority to invalidate protections and safeguards intended by Congress.” [emphasis added]

Climate “champion” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island), issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court ruling. In his statement, Senator Whitehouse does not outline a single action he might take to grapple with the Supreme Court’s overreach. Senator Whitehouse still takes campaign money from fossil fuel lobbyists like Tonio Burguos.

The fossil fuel industry’s Republican lackeys challenged an EPA rule that does not exist, meaning there was no ‘case or controversy’ to consider. But Republican justices threw precedent to the wind and pounced on this challenge,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “It was easy to see this decision coming. The fossil fuel industry helped to select, vet, and install the FedSoc Six. They know a Court they can control offers the chance to hobble the EPA, and they know a hobbled EPA is a ticket to pollute. This decision handed them that ticket.

Today’s decision also offered what Justice Sotomayor calls the ‘restless and newly constituted’ Republican supermajority an opportunity to smuggle the so-called ‘major questions doctrine,’ a fringe legal theory, into the Court’s jurisprudence. Tellingly, this very doctrine was invented and pushed by the same right-wing donor interests that built the current supermajority. As Justice Kagan notes in her dissent, the Court has never even used the term ‘major questions doctrine’ before. In adopting this right-wing whim whole cloth, the Court opens the door to other challenges by big regulated industries to rules that get in their way, and it saps regulatory agencies of their power to hold corporations accountable for the harms they inflict. Exactly as intended by the donors who built – and now own – this Court.

While this ruling does not entirely foreclose EPA from regulating greenhouse gases in the power sector – and indeed, I redouble my calls for EPA to move at warp speed to do exactly that – it is a cause for alarm for all Americans who are rightly concerned about clean air and water and safe medicines, food, consumer products, and working conditions. Taken to its (il)logical conclusion by a captured Court, ‘major questions doctrine’ can be used to gut almost any regulation right-wing donor interests don’t like.

The Court That Dark Money Built has delivered another win for its benefactors – at the potential expense of a livable climate and the basic functioning of our government.

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