News > News > Riverkeeper responds to irresponsible Supreme Court climate ruling

Riverkeeper responds to irresponsible Supreme Court climate ruling

Unprecedented ruling raises specter of future curbs on federal authority to protect clean air and water

In a reckless decision yesterday, the Supreme Court majority invalidated an important tool in the Environmental Protection Agency’s toolbox to combat climate change. The decision could discourage urgently needed federal actions to protect clean air and clean water and points to an even more critical need for Congressional and state leaders to take the lead in moving our communities forward in a just transition to renewable energy and sustainable communities.

Specifically, the decision severely limited regulation of power plants through market systems that shift electricity generation from coal to natural gas, wind and solar. The ruling has gutted our nation’s authority to lawfully regulate emissions from power plants, which are responsible for roughly 25 percent of greenhouse gases nationwide. The rationale behind the decision opens the door to future cases constraining executive branch action to protect clean water, clean air, and public health.

In her dissent, Justice Kagan called the decision “unusual” and void of “a modicum of common sense,” explaining that Congress delegated broad authority to EPA to pursue power plant regulation, which the court is interfering with. “Whatever else this Court may know about,” Kagan continues, “it does not have a clue about how to address climate change… The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.” We share Justice Kagan’s concern that the Supreme Court has turned against science, human health and our right to a clean, safe environment, but this decision will not bend Riverkeeper’s determination to drive an end to fossil fuel consumption and adapt our communities for the impacts we are already experiencing.

While the federal government faces new constraints, action at the state level becomes ever more critical. We will use every tool under the law to fight for a healthy future. We will continue vociferously advocating for New York State’s authority under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act to reject new and modified fossil fuel plants. We will continue to fight fossil fuel development and transmission, especially where it impacts our waters and the people and ecosystems who depend on them. (Read Riverkeeper’s comments, submitted July 1, on the Draft Scoping Plan for New York’s CLCPA.)

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a travesty, and for those of us working at the local level, it’s a new call to action,” said Tracy Brown, President and Hudson Riverkeeper.

“It’s hard to understand why the court would limit agency experts and professionals from conducting their essential work for the benefit of the environment and public health. We’re counting on New York State leaders, state agencies and congressional representatives to stay focused on concrete actions. Their leadership on climate and the environment is more critical than ever.”

Riverkeeper urges the following actions:

• Congress should act to override the court’s ruling and firmly reestablish EPA’s authority to address climate change.

• Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand, along with New York’s House delegation, must finalize negotiations for clean energy funding based on the Build Back Better Act to fund a nationwide transition to renewable energy.

• New York State Leaders must pass the All-Electric Buildings Act (A8431B) and consider additional actions to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels.

• Governor Hochul must sign the stream protection bill approved by the Legislature (A6652) to protect New York’s waterways from future deregulatory actions that may harm our drinking water and wildlife.

• Governor Hochul must sign the two-year moratorium on repowering fossil fuel plants for energy-intensive crypto-mining operations (A7389C).

• Governor Hochul must sign landmark environmental justice legislation (S8830) to ensure vulnerable and overburdened communities are protected from additional polluting facilities.

Read more in Riverkeeper’s blog on additional legislative action New York State can take.

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