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By Lucia Valentine
On February 28, the U.S. Supreme Court heard from coal companies and their partisan allies in the case WV v EPA, a lawsuit which aims to gut the Clean Air Act and limit the federal government’s ability to address climate change. I traveled to Washington, DC to join climate activists and participate in the Supreme Court Climate Rally Day of Activation Event. 225 advocates gathered to send a message that the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution under the Clean Air Act is a public health necessity and crucial in our fight against climate change. Several influential and prominent activists gave remarks and I had the personal privilege of opening the rally by singing a few songs, including Country Roads. West Virginia has a history of using music to inspire social change and it is always particularly special when music and activism collide.
Background on the Case
In 2019, the Trump Administration repealed the Obama Administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, adopted under the Clean Air Act, which established guidelines for states to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. In its place, the Trump Administration issued the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, which eliminated said guidelines. In January 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, vacated the ACE Rule, and sent the issue back to the EPA for more proceedings. During this time, the Biden Administration’s EPA also specified that it is not reinstating the Clean Power Plan but drafting its own rules on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, which would supersede both the Clean Power Plan and the ACE Rule.
The “Major Questions”
The main two questions disputed during the arguments were:
- Do the coal companies and republican- led states have a legal right to bring this case to the Supreme Court while the DC Circuit court’s decision is on hold until the Biden EPA issues a new rule?
- Does giving the EPA more expansive power violate the major questions doctrine?
The major questions doctrine “requires that agencies have clear Congressional authorization on issues of such magnitude in order to promote democratic accountability, preserve the constitutional structure, and avoid entangling the judiciary in political questions.”
A ruling on this case is not expected until early summer, but it is important to keep advocating for the protection of the Clean Air Act and the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions. In West Virginia we know all too well the negative health and environmental impacts that come from putting polluters over people.
What you can do
Take Action with Moms Clean Air Force!