New change of foot of the Supreme Court of the United States. The highest court in the country issued a decision on Thursday, June 30, which limits the means of the federal state to fight against greenhouse gases.
Its six conservative judges ruled, against the advice of their three progressive colleagues, that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could not enact general rules to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants, which produce nearly 20% of electricity in the United States.
“Putting a limit on carbon dioxide emissions at a level that would require a nationwide move away from coal to generate electricity could be a relevant solution to today’s crisis. But it is implausible that Congress gave the EPA the authority to pass such a measure.”writes Judge John Roberts in this decision.
“Today, the Court stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to address ‘the most pressing problem of our time'”, denounced magistrate Elena Kagan, in a separate argument written on behalf of progressives. She recalls in particular that the six hottest years were recorded during the last decade.
Reflecting the divisions of American society on environmental issues, the decision, which could have a heavy impact on global warming, was immediately welcomed by the Republican Party, hostile to any federal regulation.
“Today, the Supreme Court returns power to the people”estimated its leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, reproaching the Democratic President, Joe Biden, “to wage a war against affordable energy” despite record inflation.
The Democrats, like the elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the contrary judged the decision “catastrophic”. “Our planet is on fire and this extremist Supreme Court is destroying the ability of the federal power to fight”, said Senator Elizabeth Warren. The White House also immediately denounced a decision “devastating” and called on Congress to “putting America on the path to a cleaner, safer energy future”.
Appalled, environmental defense organizations highlighted the gap with the rest of the world. “The decision threatens the United States with being relegated far behind our international partners who are accelerating efforts to meet their climate commitments”underlined Nathaniel Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
The decision caused a reaction from the United Nations (UN), whose Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, considered that it was a question of“a setback in [la] fight against climate change, while [les Etats sont] already far behind in achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement”.
Reversal of jurisprudence
The case on which the Court ruled on Thursday finds its source in an ambitious plan adopted in 2015 by Barack Obama to reduce CO2 emissions.2. This Clean Power Plan, whose implementation fell to the EPA, had been blocked before coming into force. In 2019, Donald Trump published his own “rule for affordable clean energy”limiting the EPA’s field of action within each electricity production site, without authorizing it to remodel the entire network.
A federal court having invalidated this version, several conservative states and the coal industry asked the Supreme Court to intervene and clarify the powers of the EPA. The government of Democrat Joe Biden had made it known that it did not intend to resurrect Barack Obama’s plan and had asked the High Court to declare the file null and void.
After the volte-face on abortion last week, this decision is a new reversal of jurisprudence. In 2007, the Supreme Court had decided by a narrow majority that the EPA was competent to regulate the emissions of gases responsible for global warming, in the same way that it is responsible for limiting air pollution by a law of the years 1960. Since then, former Republican President Donald Trump, climatosceptic and hostile to any restrictive measure for the industry, has brought three magistrates into the temple of American law, thus cementing his conservative majority.
Beyond the EPA, Thursday’s decision could limit the efforts of all federal regulatory agencies, including that in charge of occupational health and safety (OSHA).