The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the government’s main environmental agency cannot set broad limits on greenhouse gases, severely curtailing the power of President Joe Biden’s administration to fight climate change.
By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency lacked the authority to set sweeping limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants, which produce nearly 20 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States.
It was a major victory for the mining and coal industries, which that same year were subjected to strict limits by the administration of then-President Barack Obama in an effort to reduce carbon pollution.
Conservatives welcomed the move, while the Biden administration criticized it for undermining the fight against global warming.
– Caps ‘maybe wise but…’ –
The majority judges said they recognized that setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions to switch from coal-generated electricity could be “a sensible solution” to global warming.
“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or with any agency acting on clear delegation from that representative body,” they said.
“Today, the court is stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time,’” they said in a dissent authored by Judge Elena Kagan.
– Excessive regulation –
“The Court overturned illegal EPA regulations without clear congressional approval and affirmed that only Congressional representatives — not unelected, irresponsible bureaucrats — should write our nation’s laws,” the Senate Republican leader wrote. Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, a state with an important mining industry.
“The EPA was created to control toxic pollutants, not CO2. The insane mission creep of regulating normal atmospheric gases has threatened the livelihoods and prosperity of countless Americans,” she said in a tweet.
Dan Lashof, director of the US branch of the World Resources Institute, said the ruling supported an effort by coal companies and Republican-led states “to cripple the EPA’s ability to tackle climate change.”
– Court conservatives show muscles –
Two similar 6-3 decisions last week shocked the country. One expanded gun owners’ rights to carry their guns anywhere, with few restrictions.
The EPA ruling could also have far-reaching consequences.
“When an agency claims the power to regulate large swaths of American life, it risks invading not only the power of Congress, but also the powers reserved to states,” Gorsuch wrote.
pmh / ec
Originally published as the US Supreme Court restricting government powers to curb greenhouse gases