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Washington, D.C. (February 28, 2022) – Following oral argument before the Supreme Court in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, the environmental respondents in the case today released the following statements: “Coal companies and their allies asked the Supreme Court today to prevent the EPA from limiting the huge amount of climate pollution emitted by power plants. That would be incredibly dangerous. The climate crisis is a serious and growing risk to the health and safety of all Americans, and we have limited time to address it. This would be the worst possible time to tie EPA’s hands behind its back,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “We need the EPA to continue enforcing our nation’s proven, time-tested clean air laws and protecting people everywhere from climate pollution. The Court should let the EPA do its job.”

“Today the Supreme Court considered a case that could have profound consequences for our ability to confront the rising costs and mounting dangers of climate change,” said Manish Bapna, President and CEO of NRDC. “Just as the nation is poised to take the climate action we so urgently need, the coal industry wants the Court to constrain the federal government’s authority to limit carbon pollution from the nation’s largest industrial source: power plants that burn fossil fuels. The coal argument should be rejected. When an industry inflicts growing damage and risk on the nation’s economy and the health of its people, it’s the business model, not our laws, that must change. And when it comes to setting commonsense limits on the carbon pollution from power plants, the Court has already answered that question – unequivocally – in the affirmative. It should do so once more.”

“This is the most significant climate action case to come before the Supreme Court in years. Coal executives and fringe politicians are trying to gut the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority and duty to tackle the climate crisis, but they aren’t stopping there. They are also trying to use this case to implement a right-wing power grab that could undermine the ability of all federal agencies to protect the public from dangerous corporate overreach, pollution, and corruption,” says Ramon Cruz, President of the Sierra Club. “This case should not even be in front of the Court in the first place, as it concerns policies that were never implemented and applies to no existing EPA rule. That hasn’t stopped a handful of extremists from trying to seize the opportunity to set our nation back decades in our efforts to fight the climate crisis. A broad coalition of public health experts, businesses, scientists and even the utilities that would be regulated are on the side of the EPA’s authority today because they know that the Supreme Court must respond by rejecting this fringe attempt to undercut climate action when it is needed most. Anything less threatens our communities, our democracy and the future of a livable planet.” 

In their brief filed last month, Sierra Club, EDF, and NRDC – alongside allied environmental, public health and clean energy industry groups – urged the Supreme Court to affirm the authority, and duty, the Clean Air Act confers upon the EPA to limit dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s dirtiest power plants. In addition to highlighting the flawed legal arguments being advanced by coal companies and far-right politicians, the respondents contend that petitioners have no standing in West Virginia v. EPA given there is currently no EPA carbon emissions rule in effect, and that the case should therefore be dismissed. A video recording featuring environmental respondents discussing the case can be viewed here.

Background

The coal companies and their allies behind this case want to prevent the EPA from limiting carbon pollution, and are attempting to thwart the fight against climate change. The petitioners’ actions would move the United States back toward the pre-1970s’ era, when few pollution controls existed before the Clean Air Act was signed into law. 

There is strong legal support for the EPA’s authority to regulate power sector pollution in order to protect clean air and public health. Power companies that would be subject to regulation argued before the Court today and agreed that the EPA’s authority is consistent with the Constitution, the Clean Air Act and the Supreme Court’s decisions in Massachusetts v. EPA and American Electric Power v. Connecticut

The Department of Justice and EPA, a coalition of two dozen states and cities, leading businesses, and a group of power companies that serve millions of customers in states across the country also filed briefswith the Supreme Court supporting EPA’s authority to regulate carbon pollution from power plants. A full summary of the amici filings can be found here.