TOPEKA — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday limiting how the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants is putting Kansas political leaders, candidates and advocacy groups’ stances on environmental policy in the spotlight.
The 6-3 vote, with the court’s three liberal justices dissenting, stripped the EPA of broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The ruling could complicate federal efforts by the Biden administration to regulate and cut power plant emissions.
In Kansas, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican candidate for Governor, celebrated the decision in West Virginia v. EPA as necessary to stop the advancement of policies in the “Green New Deal without approval from the people’s elected representatives.”
“Today’s ruling confirms that unelected Washington bureaucrats cannot write federal law to fit their preferences for energy production and the American economy without congressional authority,” Schmidt said. “More broadly, this ruling is a victory for basic principles of democratic self-government and may one day be seen as a turning point in the decades-long fight to regain control over the ever-expanding federal bureaucracy.”
Chief Justice John Roberts referred sparingly to the harms of climate change in the majority decision, stating Congress did not give the agency authority to regulate the energy industry. Justice Elena Kagan detailed in her dissent the devastation the planet faces should it continue to ignore the damage greenhouse gasses can create.
In response to the decision, the Sierra Club, one of three litigants in the case, said the court was cowing to coal executives and eliminating the EPA’s most effective tool for reducing climate pollution. Andres Restrepo, senior attorney for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, said this was an authority the EPA has had for years.
“Today’s decision accommodates the powerful instead of the people by seriously narrowing that authority,” Restrepo said. “Now, EPA must forge ahead and issue new standards that require each of the nation’s remaining coal and gas plants to minimize their pollution to the greatest extent possible.”
Mark Holland, a Kansas Democrat running for U.S. Senate, echoed concerns this would seriously curtail efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.
“The Koch bought court sides with fossil-fuel companies in blocking enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” Holland said on Twitter. “Vote Aug 2nd.”
Brooke Chong, a Democrat running for election to the Kansas State 91st House District, lamented recent actions by the nation’s highest court.
“In just the last few weeks the Supreme Court has: Curtailed the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions, expanded state power over Native American Tribes, loosened gun laws after mass shootings, restricted women’s right to healthcare…,” Chong said via her Twitter account.
The ruling could also endanger regulations to keep workers safe, and ensure clean water and safe food, said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party. He said the decision was a victory for big energy companies but a “lethal blow to everyone else.”
He called on Biden and Congress to act immediately with major investments in clean energy.
“Millions of regular people whose ability to work and take care of their families will suffer as a result,” Mitchell said.
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