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Supreme Court And Carbon Regulation: West Virginia V. EPA Requires Rethinking Climate Activism by Aseem Prakash

Submitted by Toni Kwong on July 5, 2022 - 11:40am

In the ruling of West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA could not compel coal power plants to switch to renewables, thus reversing the ruling of Massachusetts v. EPA where it found that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Since electricity generation is the key contributor to U.S. carbon emissions, it seems that the Court basically gut U.S. climate mitigation efforts. Since federal legislation required agreements from the House, Senate, and the president, it is difficult to pass pro-climate legislation. This caused pro-climate presidents to use the EPA for climate policy but their authority often depends on the Court's ruling or the pro-climate House and Senate majorities. The Court's ruling came during the global supply chain crisis and the Ukraine invasion which had caused the rise in gas prices. In response to this, governments across the globe begin to backtrack their climate positions, thus further relying on the fossil fuel economy. The ruling of West Virginia v. EPA could be an opportunity for activists to reaffirm the growing popular support for carbon regulation, thus countering the criticism that climate policy is elitist. 

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