Another regulatory agency that can't regulate. This time, it's not their fault.
You may remember that earlier this year, we advocated for Florida's Environmental Regulation Commission (under the Department of Environmental Protection) to start doing their job and protect our environment. You can read more about how they are "MIA" here.
Fast forward to June 30, 2022, and we have the Supreme Court of the United States deciding in West Virginia v. EPA that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency tasked with "[setting] and [enforcing] standards for air and water quality and for individual pollutants," may not regulate greenhouse gas emissions to the best of their ability.
As Justice Elena Kagan lamented in her dissent:
Yet the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants' carbon dioxide emissions. 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.
With this landmark decision, the Court determined that the EPA is not authorized to regulate emissions by power plants, some of the nation's largest greenhouse gas polluters.
But why? According to the Court, It falls under the "major question doctrine"—fancy words that mean if the issue is extremely important, Congress has to specifically order an agency to handle it in express terms .
Aha! So, the Court decided that regulating harmful CO₂ emissions is too big of a deal for our society, meaning Congress needs to order an agency to adequately deal with it. . . Wait, isn't that what happened with the Clean Air Act?
However, in this case, the Supreme Court sent the regulatory power back to Congress (or took it for themselves?), because the economic and political implications outweighed the benefits.
While this does not take away the EPA's authorization to create new regulatory plans and rules, it reduces their ability to write the rules we need to mitigate climate change. When the Congress-appointed agency is told by a court of non-scientists that their plans are not good enough, it then calls other environmental protection measures into question. From a local perspective, regulatory agencies at all levels have an inherent flexibility to adapt, develop, and move forward with innovative, timely, and research-driven best practices.
Without swift and effective action, our courtrooms will soon be underwater while those inside are still debating who gets to write the rules.
What it means for us
The need for effective #ClimateSolutions is more apparent now than ever. We must prioritize creative and collaborative solutions that far surpass our current goals. We must utilize the full strength of our communities to implement strategies to mitigate climate change. We must act with urgency.
Some things you can do:
Ask your Congressional representatives what they are personally doing to enact effective regulations for air, water, and other pollution. SCOTUS has declared that the power to curb air pollution is with the people's elected representatives. Demand your leaders provide you the peer-reviewed science backing their efforts.
Chat with your friends, family, colleagues, and other folks in your circle about climate change. Learn, grow, inspire, and make change together.
Support efforts to transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy society.
Hold your state and local governments accountable. The Supreme Court's ruling in West Virginia v. EPA does nothing in terms of the individual state's authority to implement regulations. Apply #1 above to your state and local reps!
Mobilize on a local level to reduce carbon emissions within your community, small business, school, or household. Get involved in carbon gardening initiatives and discover other ways you can contribute to emission reduction in your community.
Food for thought from from Justice Kagan.
Whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change.
Let this inspire us to move forward with the science, knowledge, persistence, and grit necessary to tackle our climate issues head-on and move forward toward a cleaner and healthier world for us all.