In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme court limited the ability of the EPA to regulate emissions from existing power plants. This is a major blow to not just President Biden but to the world. It has crippled the agency’s ability to curb emissions from the energy sector.
This ruling will have a ripple effect as it now opens the door for more cases that be brought against the EPA. Without actual congressional action, the EPA has fewer options to fight climate change. This will limit any administration’s ability to protect the environment.
This means that going forward, the only way for actual change to happen needs to come from congress. And with it being in a constant state of gridlock, those actions are not likely to ever pass.
In no uncertain terms, the supreme court has dealt a massive blow to the country’s ability to curb emissions.
Did the Supreme Court Make the EPA Obsolete?
One of the reasons behind the verdict was that when the EPA was originally formed in 1970, the purpose of the organization was to set performance standards that would help reduce pollution by forcing plants and factories to operate cleanly.
However, in more recent years, the EPA has broadened its reach.
This case was brought before the Supreme Court because the Clean Air Act gave the EPA the ability to tell existing power plans to lower their energy production while using fossil fuels. This is not setting a standard, it is simply telling the plant to do something else.
Thus, it goes against what the EPA was founded on. At least, according to the majority opinion of the Supreme Court.
Essentially, the EPA made it impossible for the EPA to evolve as an organization. Instead, these types of changes can only come from congress. As such, this verdict has essentially made the EPA obsolete as it cannot act on modern data.
While legislation could change this, it’s very unlikely that any significant climate legislation will pass before the mid-term election.
Does the Administration Have Any Alternatives?
The Supreme Court’s decision prevents the administration from using the EPA to implement climate policy. So what alternatives are there?
In no uncertain terms, there are still options that the administration can use. However, their effectiveness will vary. For instance, executive orders are still viable, but there is a major flaw. The next president could eliminate them after taking office.
This is exactly what the current administration did, so there’s a high chance the next one will do the same. As a result, executive orders are a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
Another approach would be to recreate the EPA, but that would involve Congress, thus, that is not a realistic option. The same applies to creating a new one.
The more realistic option left on the table is to bring the US into an international agreement. For example, the recent “Climate Club” that Germany is trying to introduce would be an excellent option.
Yet, congress would need to be involved. However, it would be much harder for them to say no if there are clear advantages to being a member. Or possibly putting pressure on international adversaries (like China or Russia).
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.