The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that it’s largely the job of Congress – not the Environmental Protection Agency – to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants dealt a major blow to President Biden’s climate-change agenda.
The Democratic Party’s far-left Green New Deal hasn’t gained any legislative traction, and now Biden will be restrained from advancing it through executive branch action, notes constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley.
Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion in West Virginia v. EPA was joined by the court’s five conservatives, Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas.
Roberts wrote that 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.’”
However, he said, “it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d)” of the Clean Air Act.
The court majority said a “decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
West Virginia was among 19 states that challenged the authority the Clean Air Act provides the EPA.
‘A curious sight’
Turley said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s condemnation of the ruling “is curious for the head of one of the houses of Congress.”
“This opinion actually reaffirms the power of the Congress and Article I powers generally,” Turley argued in a tweet.
“It is a curious sight of a congressional leader denouncing a decision that prevents the circumvention of Congress,” the George Washington University law professor said.
“It is a virtual statement of self-loathing like a player complaining of being sent back into the game by the coach.”
Schumer said the “decades-long fight to protect citizens from corporate polluters is being wiped out by these MAGA extremist justices.”
“Every Republican who helped seat these justices is complicit,” he tweeted.
President Biden said the ruling is “another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., called it “deeply alarming.’
“As the devastating impacts of climate change are becoming ever-more present,” the senator said, “it is mind boggling and deeply alarming that the Supreme Court today has decided to hamstring the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., – the sponsor of the Green New Deal in the House – seemed to advocate doing away with the Supreme Court altogether.
“Catastrophic. A filibuster carveout is not enough,” she tweeted. “We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet.”
Ambition combatting ambition
Turley pointed out that it is not the first time that Democratic leaders have called for a president to usurp the authority of their own branch. In 2016, the Supreme Court overturned the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which established emission guidelines for states.
Turley said that such action by the executive branch “undermines the faith held by figures like Madison that ambition would combat ambition in the protection of the separation of powers.”
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