Wondering What a World Without the EPA’s Ability to Regulate Will Look Like? Rewind to the Burning Rivers of the 1970s.

Yesterday, in West Virginia vs. the EPA, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that threatens planetary health and the ability of our government to protect the health and safety of all Americans. 

The disheartening ruling was issued not even a week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, an act that repealed the fundamental right to abortion. Millions of Americans' lost autonomy over their own bodies and lives last week. This decision will disproportionately affect those already burdened by social and environmental threats. Far worse, it sent a resounding message to women and transgender people around the country: you are not equal. Read our statement about the overturn of Roe vs. Wade and our commitment to reproductive justice here.

As an organization rooted in the democratic principles of equity and justice, without which a safe and healthy environment is not possible, we are deeply shaken by and condemn both decisions. 

In the West Virginia vs. EPA decision, Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch’s statement notes that the Court is not appointing itself the decision-maker on climate policy and is instead acknowledging that, under our Constitution, the people’s elected representatives in Congress are the decision makers. However, this is a knowing shift to a dysfunctional Congress that has continually demonstrated its inability to govern. 

This dysfunction is how we got here in the first place: The ruling was based on a 2009 lawsuit between the state of West Virginia and the EPA, springing from the implementation of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Unable to move any climate change policies through Congress nor ratify any international climate action treaties, the Obama administration relied on the statutory authority of the EPA to set limits on how much carbon each state could emit from their power plants. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to limit the EPA’s regulatory authority comes just after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released yet another dire warning about our failure to act, noting "without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach." This while we see the impacts of climate change all around us: The American West is again experiencing record-breaking droughts, with people begging for showers at neighbor's houses on Craigslist, as infectious diseases rapidly rise and heat waves smash records across the globe. 

Something more destructive rings true, too: the two Supreme Court decisions feel connected—the control of women's bodies by a predominantly white and male institution and the hamstringing of the federal regulation of business, in this case the almost exclusively white and male-controlled energy sector, to continue pillaging the Earth's resources unchecked. Were these decisions about Constitutional rights or simply about maintaining a power structure threatened by the movement toward equity and justice for people and the planet? We feel it is the latter. 

Our democracy, equality, and planet are in peril. Nonetheless, America has been here before and we know exactly what we need to do. We must continue to organize. Together, we have altered the course of history in our community, region, and the world.We must do it again. 

America has a beleaguered history of colonialism, genocide, and building power by enslaving peoples, but we also have a history of democracy, equality and justice for all. These ideals are being put to the test. Now must be the time when we embrace these principles, at last, because when it comes to the climate crisis, the clock is running out.