EPA authority to regulate carbon emissions limited: Is SCOTUS right?


Fact Box

  • On June 30, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in the West Virginia vs. EPA case in a 6-3 vote to limit the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act
  • In a White House statement release, President Biden stated the ruling was “another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards” and promised that his administration would take “lawful executive authority [to] tackle the climate crisis.”
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) released that the level of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021 reached the “highest ever annual level” of 36.3 gigatons which was a 6% increase from the previous year. 
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2021 was “one of the seven warmest years on record” since 2015. The global average temperature rose 1.11℃ above pre-industrial age temperatures. 
  • A 2022 News Gallup poll found that 21% of Americans believed the seriousness of global warming to be generally correct, while almost 40% believe it’s exaggerated.

Tyler (No)

The Supreme Court's ruling regarding the EPA's ability to regulate power plant emissions is a major setback for the United States' environmental future. The ruling negates any progress made thus far in the Biden presidency and guarantees America will not meet the goals he set and were agreed upon by other countries.

The ruling will discourage other nations from being involved with environmental agreements and deals with the United States. Immediately upon election, Biden re-entered the Paris Agreement, which mainly monitors the emissions of greenhouse gases through power plants. After viewing the changes made by this ruling, other nations will be wary of engaging in environmental affairs with the United States.

Greenhouse gas, primarily emitted by power plants, is the second-largest source of emissions in the United States. Greenhouse gas has been proven to significantly contribute to climate change and affect extreme weather and food shortage within ecosystems. By failing to regulate these emissions, companies will focus on what best benefits them, not the environment and those that live within it.

This ruling will significantly hinder Biden's 10-year environmental plan since using the EPA to curb emissions was a vital portion of it. In April of 2021, Biden publicized his goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution by over 50% by the year 2030. This goal was set with the intention of eventually fully shifting over to carbon pollution-free electricity by the year 2035. However, now that businesses have few regulations in their way, that is not likely to improve.

Curtice (Yes)

The Supreme Court's recent ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the authority under current laws to cap greenhouse gas emissions of the nation's energy producers was the right decision despite being a step back for Biden's 'America-wrecking' climate agenda. It is also a blow to the ever-expanding power of federal bureaucracies in the United States.

The ruling essentially reigns in the EPA's powers to regulate greenhouse gases. Whether or not one favors more regulation of greenhouse gases, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress, not the EPA, has the authority to regulate those greenhouse gases. The EPA regularly enacts policies that drive up costs of energy producers, wasting taxpayers' money and, in this instance, essentially attempting to force plants to close. 

As Justice Roberts said in the Court's decision, Congress must authorize regulatory agencies to make certain decisions. Congress has abdicated its responsibilities for too long by giving bureaucratic federal agencies far too wide of birth for decision-making. That is a responsibility Congress alone should and does have. Despite the hyperventilating in the media, the decision does not mean that Congress cannot grant such power to the EPA, only that it failed has to do so thus far.

With this and other recent Supreme Court decisions, many have claimed this is an assault on democracy, but it is quite the contrary. What the Supreme Court has done with this ruling is to put the power back in the hands of Congress, an elective body accountable to its constituents, not in the hands of an unelected bureaucracy. That is the very essence of democracy.

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