Energy & Environment

Environmental groups call for expanding SCOTUS bench

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The offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

Several major environmentalist groups, including Greenpeace, on Monday called for the addition of four seats to the Supreme Court, which is set to hear a case that could have major implications for the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions. 

Groups signing onto the call included Greenpeace USA, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Climate Action Network, Women’s Earth, Empower our Future and Earth Ethics.  

“The Supreme Court is no longer serving the interests of Americans. Our very democracy is under threat from a small, partisan group of judges put in power by extremists,” Ebony Martin, co-executive director at Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. 

“The poor and people of color are most at risk, but this court has shown a willingness to fly in the face of all Americans’ needs. It is time for Congress to expand the Supreme Court to protect our rights, our health, and our communities.” 

In their call for an expansion of justices on the high court, Martin and the other organizations cited a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked last week in which a majority led by Justice Samuel Alito voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that barred states from banning abortion. That decision has not been finalized by the court.

But the call by the environmental groups also comes as the high court is preparing to hear a case that could severely curtail the EPA’s authority to regulate the emissions that are the primary cause of climate change. 

The case, brought by the coal industry and 16 Republican state attorneys general, seeks to rule against a since-abandoned Obama-era plan restricting emissions. 

While the Clean Power Plan has since been revoked, the court’s decision to take the case anyway has sparked fears that the 6-3 conservative majority may rule against the EPA’s general authority to enforce the Clean Air Act in a way that significantly affects the electricity industry. 

Such a ruling could have major implications for not just the EPA’s authority but for that of various regulatory agencies in general.

Updated at 10:33 a.m.

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