A blow has been struck against Joe Biden and his climate change agenda after the United States Supreme Court made a landmark ruling, taking away the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse gas emissions, taking the side of coal miners and Republican-led states.
Despite Biden’s small win after SCOTUS ruled that he could indeed end former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy – that assured asylum seekers had to wait in Mexico until the court could hear their case – the president’s radical climate agenda has been rocked.
Authored by Justice John Roberts, the majority opinion ruled that the Democrats had overreached, and that the EPA was not authorized by Congress to reduce carbon emissions when it was first set up in 1970.
Now, the Biden administration must pass legislation if it still plans on going ahead with making changes across the board to regulate carbon emissions.
The opinion said that “a decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body”.
The justices added they doubted Congress intended to delegate the question of “how much coal-based generation there should be over the coming decades, to any administrative agency”.
Justice Elena Kagan, one of the three liberal Justices who agreed with her, wrote in her dissenting opinion, stating that the EPA had the authority to regulate “stationary sources” of substances that pollute the environment and are harmful to the public – adding that usual eco-warrior talking point that regulating greenhouse gas emissions was “a necessary part of any effective approach for addressing climate change”. In other words, the usual green tripe that has sent the country to the edge of a hyperinflationary commodity disaster.
“This Court has obstructed EPA’s effort from the beginning,” Kagan wrote. “The limits the majority now puts on EPA’s authority fly in the face of the statute Congress wrote.”
At the heart of the case is the disagreement on how broadly the EPA is able to interpret the 1970 Clean Air Act, specifically the sections that direct the EPA to develop emissions limitations for power plants according to a report by Financial Times:
Dubbed West Virginia vs EPA, the case was brought by a host of Republican attorneys-general and the coal industry. Their argument centers on a regulation that never took effect: an Obama-era proposal known as the Clean Power Plan, which would have mandated that power plants make 32 per cent reductions in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. The Supreme Court ordered that rule to be suspended in 2016.
That rule was later torn up by the Trump administration in favor of its Affordable Clean Energy rule, designed to support the coal industry. The Trump administration’s regulation, however, was struck down by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit last year.
Challenging the lower court’s reversal of Trump’s rule at the Supreme Court, West Virginia has argued that the Obama-era Clean Power Plan relied on an overly broad interpretation of the Clean Air Act and gave the EPA excessive and “industry transforming” power.
West Virginia argued that the lower court’s interpretation of the law granted the EPA “unbridled power” to issue significant rules that would reshape the US electricity grid and decarbonize sectors of the economy. It said the EPA should only have very limited authority to regulate emissions inside “the fence line” of power plants and cannot apply broader industry-wide measures like carbon credit trading or biomass co-firing.