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US Supreme Court limits power plants’ ability to limit emissions in fight against climate change

In a major blow to the fight against climate change, the US Supreme Court on Thursday restricted how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from greenhouses. electric machine.

By a 6-3 vote, with a conservative majority, the court held that the Clean Air Act did not give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouses from power plants contribute to global warming.

The court’s ruling could complicate the administration’s climate change plans. Proposals to regulate power plant emissions are expected to be implemented later this year.

President Joe Biden aims to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade and have a zero-emissions electricity sector by 2035. Power plants account for about 30% of carbon production. dioxide.

“Limiting carbon dioxide emissions to levels that would force a nationwide transition away from coal for power generation could be a ‘reasonable solution to the crisis of the day,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion. his opinion to the court.

But Roberts wrote that the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA the power to do so and that Congress must be clear on the subject.

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself or an agency acting on a clear delegation from that agency,” he wrote.

Response from the governor of West Virginia:

The Sierra Club described the opinion as “a deeply disappointing and dangerous decision.”

The environmental group said in a statement: “This decision gives coal industry executives and far-right politicians exactly what they demand by frustrating the EPA’s efforts to establish strong and effective carbon pollution standards from power plants to help protect our communities and families,” the environmental group said in a statement.

The ruling came the same day Biden accused the Supreme Court of “outrageous conduct” in his speech at the end of a NATO summit in Spain, referring to the top court’s position last week, where abortion rights protections were overturned.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called it “a step backwards in our fight against climate change.”

“But we also need to remember that a global emergency like climate change requires a global response and that actions by one country should not and cannot be taken or disrupted even if they Are we meeting our climate goals?” Dujarric said.

Judgment ‘scary’: Kagan dissented

In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that Congress’ decision to strip the EPA of its power had been taken.

“Whatever else this Court might know, it has no clue how to deal with climate change,” Kagan said.

“The courts appoint themselves – rather than Congress or an expert body – to make decisions on climate policy. I can’t think of more frightening things.”

Reaction from a Democrat from Florida:

The judges heard arguments in the case on the same day that a United Nations panel’s report warned that the effects of climate change were about to get much worse, potentially making the world a shambles. sicker, hungrier, poorer and more dangerous in the years to come.

The power plant case has a long and complicated history, dating back to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. That plan would require states to reduce emissions from electricity generation, primarily by moving away from coal-fired power plants.

But that plan never came into effect. Acting in a lawsuit by West Virginia and others, the Supreme Court blocked it in 2016 by a 5-4 vote, with conservatives having a majority.

With the plan on hold, the legal battle over it continues. But after President Donald Trump took office, the EPA scrapped the Obama-era plan. The agency argues that its authority to reduce carbon emissions is limited, and it has introduced a new plan that drastically reduces the federal government’s role in the issue.

Many giant companies support the position of the White House

New York, 21 other predominantly Democratic states, the District of Columbia and some of the nation’s largest cities have sued over Trump’s plan. The federal appeals court in Washington ruled against both the repeal and the new plan, and its decision went into effect while the new administration drafted a new policy.

Adding to the unusual nature of the supreme court’s involvement, the cuts in Obama’s plan by 2030 were achieved through the closure of hundreds of market-driven coal plants.

Power plant operators serving 40 million people have urged the court to maintain the flexibility of companies to reduce emissions while maintaining reliable service. Prominent businesses including Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Tesla also support the administration.

Nineteen predominantly Republican-led states and coal companies have led the Supreme Court battle against the EPA’s broad authority to regulate carbon output.

The EPA was established in 1970 by the administration of Republican Richard Nixon.

Read the Supreme Court opinion:


The opinion is one of two made by the Supreme Court on Thursday, with all cases heard in session between 2021 and 22 now being heard.

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement on Thursday, with Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in. Jackson, nominated by Biden, will become the first black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court.

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