The Supreme Court ended its absolutely horrific term on Thursday by sharply limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate existing power plants—a huge blow to President Joe Biden’s plans to limit climate change. This means that, within the last week, the highest court in the land has effectively said that states can force people to give birth against their will, and those children will grow up on a planet the court itself is helping to destroy. Severe weather events, like hurricanes and draughts and heat waves, are getting more severe, and people will increasingly not survive them. Oh, and more people can carry guns in public now. “Pro-life” something something!
As climate journalist Kate Aronoff put it on Twitter: “Minority rule in the United States is a threat to life on earth.”
The vote was 6-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion that limits the scope of the Clean Air Act. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent, which Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Steven Breyer joined. She said: “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”
Kagan added: “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.”
In addition, the court cut back agency authority in general invoking the so-called “major questions” doctrine—a ruling that will impact the federal government’s authority to regulate in other areas of climate policy, as well as regulation of the internet and worker safety.
The decision issued Thursday will send shockwaves across the federal government, threatening agency action that comes without clear congressional authorization.
Justice Neil Gorsuch seemed especially thrilled at the prospect of kneecapping the administrative state. “While we all agree that administrative agencies have important roles to play in a modern nation, surely none of us wishes to abandon our Republic’s promise that the people and their representatives should have a meaningful say in the laws that govern them,” he wrote.
In the context of the abortion access crisis, the court’s decision could affect the ability of agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or the Department of Health and Human Services to do much of anything to expand people’s access to abortion pills or birth control.
Now that Biden reversed course and said he supports changing the Senate filibuster to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law, it seems like Congress should get on that, ASAP.