EOPA says Supreme Court W.V. case ruling guts the Clean Air Act and endangers climate action

EOPA says Supreme Court W.V. case ruling will cause millions to suffer from industry pollution as climate crisis worsens

The Supreme Court, on June 30, 2022, decided on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 20-1530.  The vote was in favor of WV 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal justices in dissent. Petitioners in this case asserted a legal theory, invented by the Trump Administration, that would gut EPA’s ability to rein in climate-disrupting carbon dioxide pollution from existing fossil fuel-burning power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. 

Elected Officials to Protect America’s, an organization representing thousands of elected officials from across the country, statement in response:

The decision has limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, stripping away the EPA’s core regulatory power to combat the climate crisis which grows worse daily — directly because of carbon emissions according to the scientific community. 

The West Virginia lawsuit argued that the EPA shouldn’t be able to issue rules that ‘are capable of reshaping the nation’s electricity grids and unilaterally decarbonizing virtually any sector of the economy.’ 

The ruling clearly is trying to limit clean energy sources from accessing the grid, delaying the need to shift to a clean energy economy and directly counters the Biden administration’s policies that would put America on a path to a 50-52% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030 — the goal scientists say is necessary to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. 

Dirty power plants emit 1.6 billion tons per year of climate-changing carbon pollution.  The Court’s decision undercuts why the EPA was bipartisanly created — to protect public health from pollution. The EPA must retain its ability to use the Clean Air Act to defend the defenseless against the insidious dangers of toxins in the air caused by industrial pollution. This Court ruling directly impacts communities of color and low income the most. These are the very same communities that were redlined decades ago from codified systemic racism. That dehumanizing reality has been reinforced today by the Supreme Court. Environmental justice took a major body blow today.

America’s power to keep industries from choosing profit margins over human life have been drastically curtailed. The Supreme Court’s decision has been made in favor of corporate interests, not the American people. It undermines American democracy.

The Clean Air Act is our primary federal air quality law, intended to reduce and control air pollution nationwide. Without it cities across the country would be full of unbreathable smog like Los Angeles was before the Act.

Federal agencies need to be able to take action to protect public health. Today’s ruling has the potential to crush the authority of virtually every federal agency to carry out vital Congressional directives. It sends us back to the period that preceded the Great Depression, known as the Lochner era, when corporate power went largely unchecked and federal agencies had little authority to protect the public. To rule against the EPA undermines the will of the people, a century of laws, and decades of legal precedent. It threatens our nation’s ability to protect clean air, clean water, and our national security.

We cannot delay curbing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing solutions for a more equitable and just clean energy future. This ruling is an overt attempt to establish a broad precedent that would scrutinize and discredit protections for public health, safety and the environment on judicial review. 

After this Court’s dramatic overreaching decision, the need for the climate provisions in the former Build Back Better Act that awaits Senate action are more imperative. The Senate must vote to set the US on the course to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, create millions of good-paying jobs, reduce energy costs for consumers, advance environmental justice, invest in climate resilient housing and community infrastructure, and strengthen our economy on the road to energy independence and true justice.

Today’s ruling is part of the multi-decade radical-right fossil-fuel-funded Koch billionaire donor network project to ensure their personal interests continue to profit, even though these industries are fuelling the climate crisis and have caused millions premature deaths. Congress can still protect the people by standing with the Constitution they all take an oath to uphold and not siding with the fossil fuel billionaire class. The Senate needs to pass the climate provisions worth $555 billion in investments for the American people and our democracy’s future. 

Background: This past year, every region of the United States has experienced extreme weather with deadly storms, heat waves, floods, drought or wildfires made worse by the climate crisis. The window is closing for significant action to curb fossil fuel pollution that is dangerously heating the planet, with the last seven years being the hottest on record. According to a report from NOAA, in the USA at least 700 people died during 20 extreme weather disasters in 2021, totaling over $20 billion in costs.

The irony is that the power industry is already shifting from coal to cleaner sources of power because of economics. 

Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting the planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.

June 30, 2022


Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Communications Director
Elected Officials to Protect America
Cell: 207.319.4727