The Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants on Thursday, ruling 6-3 that “Congress had not explicitly given the agency extensive authority to regulate the energy industry” under the Clean Air Act.
“The decision is a major setback for the Biden administration’s agenda to combat climate change, specifically the goal to zero out carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and cut in half the country’s emissions by 2100,” CNBC explains.
According to the EPA, fossil fuel-fired power plants are the second-largest source of pollution in the United States, trailing only transportation. The United States is also the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse emissions, after only China, making it a critical role in global efforts to tackle climate change.
White House: Decision will take the country backwards
The majority opinion in the case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, was written by Chief Justice John Roberts. His opinion was backed by the other five conservative members of the court.
“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’” Roberts wrote. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”
The White House considers the Supreme Court’s decision as “another devastating decision that aims to take the country backwards.”
“I have directed my legal team to work with the Department of Justice and affected agencies to review this decision carefully and find ways that we can, under federal law, continue protecting Americans from harmful pollution, including pollution that causes climate change,” said President Joe Biden in a statement.
UN: Paris Agreement goals now harder to meet
The United Nations warned the verdict might postpone the achievement of globally agreed-upon climate targets.
“Decisions like the one today in the U.S. or any other major emitting economy make it harder to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement for a healthy, livable planet,” said the statement from the spokesman of Secretary General António Guterres.