Supreme Court limits Biden’s ability to reduce emissions

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has seen some of its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions diminish.

Supreme Court limits Biden’s ability to reduce emissions

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has seen some of its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions diminish.

The US Supreme Court's landmark decision is a significant setback for President Joe Biden’s climate plans.

Although he called it "devastating", he said that it would not hinder his efforts to address the climate crisis.

West Virginia brought the case against the EPA on behalf of 18 other Republican-led states, as well as some of the largest coal companies in the country.

They claimed that the agency was not authorized to limit emissions in whole states.

These 19 states were concerned that their power sector would have to abandon coal use, which could lead to severe economic consequences.

The court ruled in favor of the conservative states and fossil fuel companies in a 6-3 decision. It also ruled that the EPA was not authorized to impose such broad measures.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt - one among the 19 states - described it as a "big win...that pushes back against the Biden-EPA's job-killing regulation".

Although the court doesn't prohibit the EPA completely from making regulations in the future, it states that Congress must clearly state that it authorizes this power. The EPA's carbon limiting programs have been rejected by Congress in the past.

The outcome will concern environmental groups as the 19 states involved in the case have not made significant progress in reducing their carbon emissions, which is essential to limit climate change.

In 2018, 44% of US emissions were from the US states. Since 2000, they have only managed a 7% average reduction in their emissions.

Vickie Patton (general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund) stated that today's Supreme Court decision undermines EPA’s authority to protect people against climate pollution. This is a time when all evidence suggests we must act with great urgency."

This means that President Biden now relies on these states to change their policy or Congress to change it - otherwise, the US will not be able achieve its climate goals.

This is a major loss for the president, who took office with a promise to increase US efforts in the area of climate change and the environment.

He re-entered the country in the Paris Agreement, which was the first legally binding universal agreement on climate change.

He also committed the country to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 52% in 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

He stated that while this decision could have a negative impact on our nation's ability keep our air clean and fight climate change, he will not relent in using his lawful authority to protect public health as well as tackle the climate crisis.

As it impacts global efforts to combat climate change, governments around the globe will pay attention to this case. Nearly 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions are from the USA.

A spokesperson for the United Nations called it "a setback" in the fight against climate change, but said that no one nation could stop the global effort.

This ruling in the US could have an impact on the EPA’s broader regulatory responsibilities, including consumer protections, workplace safety, and public health.

According to Hajin Kim (an assistant professor of law at University of Chicago), the ruling gives courts "enormous power to target regulations they don’t like".

She explains that judges may say Congress didn't authorize the agency to do this particular thing.

The Supreme Court has held for decades that federal law interpreters should be deferential to government agencies. The conservative majority continued to chip away at this practice on Thursday.

Instead, the court's justices adopted what's known as the "major question doctrine", which states that the federal agency's discretion on large issues that involve broad regulatory actions is limited. They said that if Congress wanted the Environmental Protection Agency to have broad regulatory authority over an entire US sector, it would have written that power into The Clean Air Act.

A similar majority of the court used the major questions doctrine in January to reject an attempt by the Biden Administration to use a federal workplace law for large-company employees to be vaccinated.

This court is now clear that it will not allow agency attempts to cite broad or vague laws in order to enact major regulatory changes. This is a significant development considering how difficult it has been for Congress in recent years to pass substantive new legislation. It may soon be the end of the days when presidents could unilaterally "work around" existing laws.

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