Katherine Firkin: US Supreme Court curbs EPA's ability to fight climate change

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The Supreme Court curbed the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to broadly regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, a major defeat for the Biden administration's attempts to slash emissions at a moment when scientists are sounding alarms about the accelerating pace of global warming.
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.
The ruling was 6-3. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the conservative majority, with the three liberal justices dissenting. Roberts said that "our precedent counsels skepticism toward EPA's claim" that the law "empowers it to devise carbon emissions caps based on a generation shifting approach."
"Under our precedents, this is a major questions case," Roberts wrote, adding that "there is little reason to think Congress assigned such decisions to the Agency."
Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said the ruling "could be cataclysmic for modern administrative law."
"For a century, the federal government has functioned on the assumption that Congress can broadly delegate regulatory power to executive branch agencies. Today's ruling opens the door to endless challenges to those delegations -- on everything from climate change to food safety standards -- on the ground that Congress wasn't specific enough in giving the agency the power to regulate such 'major' issues," Vladeck said.
Regarding the EPA, Roberts wrote that capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal may be a "sensible" solution.
"But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme" under the law in question.
"A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body," he wrote.
Writing separately, Justice Neil Gorsuch emphasized the court's move to limit agency power, which he considers unaccountable to the public.
"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," Gorsuch wrote.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, sounded the alarm about global warming and said that the court's decision "strips" the EPA of the "power Congress gave it to respond to 'the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.'"
"The Court appoints itself -- instead of Congress or the expert agency -- the decision-maker on climate policy," she wrote.
"I cannot think of many things more frightening," she concluded.
The White House on Thursday blasted the ruling.
"This is another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards," a White House official said in a statement. "While the Court's decision risks damaging our ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, President Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis."
Meanwhile, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the ruling is "a public health disaster" that will hurt Americans' health.
"A failure to regulate power plant emissions will lead to increases in asthma, lung cancer, and other diseases associated with poor air quality, and in many places, those...

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