The latest Supreme Court ruling is a major setback for President Joe Biden, who has committed America to deep cuts in its carbon emissions, a quarter of which comes from burning coal and gas for electricity. .

The judges lined up 6-3 against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The same conservative judges who rejected the Roe vs Wade ruling on the right to abortion in America.

President Biden had relied on federal powers through the EPA to curb pollution from power plants.

The lawsuit filed against the EPA by West Virginia, along with 17 other coal producing states and two coal companies, concerned whether the EPA could regulate pollution beyond the “fence” of a given power plant using the Clean Air Act. of the United States.

The court ruled that it cannot, arguing that carbon dioxide, while a greenhouse gas, is not “toxic” and therefore not something the EPA has the power to regulate.

Since limiting CO2 emissions could also impact the US economy, the court went further.

He wonders if any federal regulators have the power to intervene in such “important matters”.

And it is this legal opinion that could have important and long-lasting consequences, with possible repercussions on other environmental regulations, also controlling the powers of other government regulators.

The problem now for the Biden administration is finding another way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Previous attempts to pass climate change laws have been blocked by conservatives in Congress. Now the regulatory route is also closed.

The ruling will also reduce the US position in global climate talks. The Biden administration has a lot of foreign policy muscle to try to accelerate carbon reductions globally, but how many smaller economies will trust US leadership if they can’t get their carbon-reduction house in order?

But today’s decision doesn’t completely derail climate action in the United States.

The use of coal in the United States has been steadily declining for years, even under the last president who campaigned under the “Trump digs coal” banner. The reason for this, of course, is that renewable energy, especially solar and wind, is now cheaper than building a new fossil fuel power plant.

Steam flow from a coal-fired power plant in Colorado File pic: AP

It is significant that no US power generation company has opposed the EPA’s CO2 regulatory powers. Indeed, some utility companies have advocated US-wide caps on fossil fuel emissions as the fairest way to manage the inevitable transition to renewable energy.

Additionally, the Supreme Court’s opinion applies only to the federal environmental regulator. Just as with abortion laws, individual states in the United States can limit pollution in any way they wish.

Twenty-one states in the United States have already signed zero-net targets by law that require swift action on fossil fuel emissions.

Today is a historic victory for US conservatives against “overriding the regulation”. But the story is almost certainly against the fossil fuel industry that many of them work so hard to defend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.