Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 30, 2022


Jason Rylander, (202) 744-2244,

Supreme Court Limits Climate Action Under Clean Air Act

Biden Climate Leadership Needed in Wake of Court Decision

WASHINGTON— The Supreme Court today limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act. The decision in West Virginia v. EPA is a blow to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from coal and gas fired power plants. It spotlights the need for the Biden administration to use its broad range of executive powers to combat the climate emergency.

“Hard on the heels of snatching away fundamental liberties, the right-wing activist court just curtailed vital climate action,” said Jason Rylander, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It’s a bad decision and an unnecessary one, but the EPA can still limit greenhouse gases at the source under Section 111 and more broadly through other Clean Air Act provisions. In the wake of this ruling, EPA must use its remaining authority to the fullest.”

The long-running case involved the Trump administration’s 2019 repeal of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. In previous rulings the Supreme Court has made clear that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. But coal companies and their allies nonetheless asked the court to strip the EPA of important tools to limit climate-heating emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants.

“The case highlights the need for swift executive action on climate. President Biden has broad authority under an array of additional laws to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, restrict development of fossil fuels and accelerate a just, clean-energy transition,” Rylander said.

The Center and more than 1200 groups in the People vs Fossil Fuels coalition have called on Biden to declare a national climate emergency and take swift executive action to reject new fossil fuel leases, infrastructure and exports. Under existing law, the president can also restrict international fossil fuel investment and rapidly manufacture and distribute renewable energy systems.

The president heeded such calls with recent clean energy orders under the Defense Production Act and should now pursue additional measures to curb fossil fuels.

In addition to emergency powers, the Climate President Action Plan outlines the president’s broad authority for climate action. Today’s decision limiting the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority for coal and gas-fired power plants makes it all the more urgent that Biden take all possible action under other laws to limit oil, gas, and coal which are responsible for 85% of greenhouse emissions.

While today’s decision did not go as far as many feared to strike at the executive branch’s power to implement vital climate, environmental, and worker protections, the Court’s recent decisions make clear that no precedent is safe from the extremist majority.

“President Biden and Congress should also take action to reform and expand the Supreme Court, including creating additional seats, setting term limits and implementing ethics rules,” Rylander said. “Without sweeping reform, this Supreme Court will continue to pursue an ideological, corporate-driven agenda at the expense of the environment, individual rights and public health.”

The Center supports H.R. 2584, the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would add four justices to the court.

U.S. Supreme Court Building photo courtesy Architect of the Capitol. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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