Supreme Court Ends its Term by Undermining the EPA's Role in Reducing Greenhouse Gases
By the end of its term, no one was very surprised when the Supreme Court issued another poorly reasoned decision to reduce the Environmental Protection Agency's [EPA] important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Like its earlier decisions to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, vastly expand gun rights and further erode the wall separating church and state, the Court's new conservative supermajority ignored precedent and decades of history to undermine the power of executive branch agencies to battle one of the most pressing environmental problems facing the nation and the world.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. penned the 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. the US Environmental Protection Agency in which the court narrowed the EPA's authority to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, making it much tougher for President Biden to achieve his goal of reducing emissions in half by the end of the decade.
Robert's decision undermines the Court's precedent on the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants starting with Massachusetts v. EPA in which the Court held that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
West Virginia v. the US Environmental Protection Agency doesn't overrule all past precedent, but it limits new EPA rules to address the crisis and Roberts acknowledges that in his opinion.
Texas Tribune: “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Roberts wrote, “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”
The majority believes that executive branch regulatory agencies have very narrow authority to act and that Congress must grant the EPA greater power to battle climate change. Roberts and the other conservatives on the Court must realize that Republicans in Congress will never allow that to happen. So, the Court has knowingly set up the nation to fail in order to honor some archaic theory of Constitutional interpretation, long abandoned by even conservative justices of the Nixon and Reagan eras.
Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and the Trump justices will congratulate themselves in having put a stake through the heart of the notion that the Constitution is a living, breathing document that can be employed to meet a crisis or adapt to changes in human knowledge. And they will be celebrated at the Federalist Society and Fox News for the strength of their conservative convictions. Meanwhile, greenhouse gases will continue to gather in the atmosphere, our weather will continue to deteriorate, and the tides will continue to rise. Future historians will recognize them for what they are; timid, short-sighted men and women so wedded to political dogma that they missed the opportunity to avert disaster, proud members of the James Buchanan school of public service.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content