Supreme Court ruling guts the EPA’s ability to enforce Clean Air Act

In yet another historic reversal of long standing precedent, the US Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 6 – 3 along ideological lines to severely limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating carbon emissions from power plants, further hamstringing the Biden administration’s ability to combat global warming.

The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 20-1530, centered both on whether the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the power to issue regulations for the power industry and whether Congress must “speak with particular clarity when it authorizes executive agencies to address major political and economic questions,” a theory the court refers to as the “major questions doctrine.”

This decision doesn’t just impact the EPA’s ability to do its job, from limiting emissions from specific power plants to operating the existing cap-and-trade carbon offset policy, it also hints at what other regressive steps the court’s conservative majority may be planning to take. During the pandemic, the court already blocked eviction moratoriums enacted by the CDC and told OSHA that it couldn’t mandate vaccination requirements for large companies. More recently, the court declared states incapable of regulating their own gun laws but absolutely good-to-go on regulating women’s bodily autonomy.


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