Reaction on both sides of the issue was swift after the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 vote said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not have the authority to broadly regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the nation’s power plants. The case, West Virginia vs. EPA, could have ramifications for federal government regulation of many industries, not just power generation.
Advocates for the coal industry applauded the decision, saying it will help ensure a reliable supply of affordable energy, while environmentalists and renewable energy proponents decried the move, saying it moves the U.S. backward in the fight against climate change.
A sampling of the reaction:
“Huge victory against federal overreach and the excesses of the administrative state. This is a HUGE win for West Virginia, our energy jobs and those who care about maintaining separation of powers in our nation.” — Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia attorney general
“This is another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards. While the Court’s decision risks damaging our ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, President Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis.” — Abdullan Hasan, White House spokesperson
“This ruling will have a significant impact on the Commonwealth [of Kentucky]. Even as energy prices spiral out of control and experts warn of electricity blackouts, the Biden administration has continued the left’s war on affordable domestic energy and proposed to saddle the electric power sector with expensive regulatory requirements.” — Mitch McConnell, Republican senator from Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader
“Just like last week’s dangerously misguided and abhorrent decisions on gun safety and abortion, the extremist MAGA Court’s ruling today in West Virginia v. EPA will cause more needless deaths—in this instance because of more pollution that will exacerbate the climate crisis and make our air and water less clean and safe.” — Chuck Schumer, Democratic senator from New York and Senate Majority Leader
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is welcome news and further proves that EPA overstepped its authority by imposing enormously burdensome regulations on states to reconfigure our electric grid despite Congress’s rejection.” — Shelley Moore-Capito, Republican senator from West Virginia
“We are reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision. EPA is committed to using the full scope of its existing authorities to protect public health and significantly reduce environmental pollution, which is in alignment with the growing clean energy economy.” – Statement from the EPA
“Today’s ruling reaffirms Congress never intended the federal government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for the states.” – Kevin Cramer, Republican senator from North Dakota
“This decision by the Supreme Court will have the unfortunate effect of increasing regulatory uncertainty at a time when greater clarity on a national climate policy is needed. Administrative actions to reduce carbon emissions are important but they have proven to be slow, contentious, and inadequate. With agencies now further constrained, the only path forward to a broad and effective program driving the transition to a national low-carbon energy system is for Congress to come together to enact durable, bipartisan energy and climate legislation. The benefit to this approach is bipartisan policy doesn’t have the same risk of being reversed with each new administration. Today’s court ruling only increases the importance of Congress adopting a pragmatic and effective long-term climate strategy.” – Sasha Mackler, executive director of the Energy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center
“With the stroke of a pen, the Supreme Court sharply curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. While many top corporations are stepping up and taking ownership of their carbon emissions, the reality is not everyone is moving in the same direction, and we’re running out of time to take meaningful action on climate change. Climate change is having a real and immediate impact on our economy and way of life, and brown and black communities are continuing to bear the brunt of decades of government inaction on carbon-polluting businesses. EPA has the expertise and means to execute a thoughtful strategy on curbing carbon emissions and stripping them of this power will only make it harder to reach our decarbonization goals. The federal government has both the authority and responsibility to protect Americans from the detrimental effects of pollution and regulating the actions of fossil-polluting sources is a necessary next step in the fight against climate change. Solar will continue to grow, because customers want clean power and solar is the most cost-effective source of clean energy. The Supreme Court has added unnecessary barriers that will only slow clean energy deployment when we should be focused on addressing the climate crisis. The power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rests with Congress, and it is more urgent than ever that Congress take swift action to codify climate-protecting policies that will also advance America’s clean energy deployment at a more rapid pace.” — Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO at the Solar Energy Industries Association
“From the start, the Clean Power Plan was all about the administrative state waging war on reliable and affordable energy sources. The court’s decision today makes it clear that the EPA, as well as other regulatory agencies, do not have sweeping authority to reorder the entire U.S. power sector under the Clean Air Act. This decision is also critical for democracy. Congress, as the people’s democratically elected representatives, needs to authorize regulatory agencies to act. If President Biden wants EPA to act on climate, then it is time for President Biden to craft a plan and have Congress vote on it. Now, the American people can decide this issue through their elected representatives in Congress, as the Constitution envisioned.” — Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance
“The Supreme Court just made the monumental task of cleaning up our air and reducing climate-warming pollution much, much harder. Americans count on the EPA to protect our air and environment. Now that the court has put a stable climate even further from reach, lawmakers at all levels of government must seek out other ways to reduce emissions and secure a clean and healthy future.” — Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office
“Today’s Supreme Court decision limiting the EPA’s ability to fight climate change emphasizes that companies can’t wait for government mandates to drive their clean energy goals. In the face of stalled government initiatives to assist societies through the energy transition, the need for collaboration with companies and innovative clean technologies is more vital than ever.”— Derek Lim Soo, CEO of Peak Power, a climate tech company
“This decision limiting the EPA’s authority undermines the nation’s commitment to addressing climate change. Like any powerful law, the Clean Air Act requires enforcement. Without that, the federal government is left with just blind hope that polluters will do what they’re supposed to. But there are still plenty of ways to win cleaner air and a healthier climate. Now is no time for mourning—it’s time to refocus on other strategies and venues, including state legislatures and corporate campaigns. And it’s time to end our reliance on fossil fuels.” — Matt Casale, J.D., director of PIRG’s Environment Campaigns
“SCOTUS sided with the fossil fuel industry, kneecapping EPA’s basic ability to tackle climate change. [California] will lead this fight with our $53.9 BILLION climate commitment. We’ll reduce pollution, protect people from extreme weather & leave the world better off than we found it.” — Gavin Newsom, Democratic governor of California
“This decision marks the second time in a week that the Supreme Court has turned back the clock to darker days that have dangerous implications for public health. The decision to side with polluters over the public will cost American lives and cause an enormous amount of preventable suffering, with the biggest burden falling on low-income communities and communities of color.” — Michael Bloomberg, U.N. special envoy for climate ambition
“Make no mistake: today’s decision by the Supreme Court is a major setback in our fight against climate change.” — Kathy Hochul, Democratic governor of New York
“The Republicans on the Supreme Court are not going to allow any meaningful administration efforts to combat climate change. It’s crystal clear. The only way to tackle this problem is through congressional action, which is why it’s so important that Congress pass our clean energy tax credit package.” — Ron Wyden, Democratic senator from Oregon and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
“Today, the Supreme Court ignored reality and put our country’s welfare and economy in peril. In just the last few weeks, we have seen climate change bring catastrophic flooding and devastating fires to communities around the country. Today’s decision also threatens the more than 3 million Americans that work in the clean energy industry, who are committed to building a cleaner and safer future. As an investor, I know that the solutions to climate change are market-tested and ready to scale. Last year, more than $920 billion was invested globally in climate solutions like renewable energy, energy storage, and electric vehicles. Unfortunately, U.S. investment continues to lag behind China and the EU and today’s decision will make it even harder for us to compete with them. This is a race we cannot afford to lose, yet the Supreme Court has just tied weights to our feet. It is time for the private sector and the States to step up and do what the Supreme Court has refused to do—acknowledge reality and lean into what we believe is the greatest economic opportunity of our generation. One that will create jobs, prosperity, and protect our communities.” — Peter Davidson, CEO, Aligned Climate Capital
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).