Energy & Environment

Congressional climate hawks demand action after ‘alarming’ Supreme Court decision

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
Greg Nash

The climate hawk wing of the Democratic party took aim Thursday at a Supreme Court ruling that severely curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. 

In the 6-3 ruling, the court found Congress did not give the EPA the powers contained in the Obama-era Clean Power Plan to regulate power plants using a “best system of emissions reduction.” 

Reactions largely echoed those of Democratic lawmakers to last week’s ruling overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights, with some legislators calling to expand the court and others calling for Congress to pass legislation codifying the the EPA’s authority to tackle climate change.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called the ruling “catastrophic” and said it illustrated the need for an overhaul of the filibuster. “A filibuster carveout is not enough. We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet,” she tweeted shortly after the release of the 6-3 ruling. 

House Energy Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said in a statement that the ruling “makes a mockery of the clear separation of powers outlined in our Constitution and subverts decades of settled law.”  

“The Clean Air Act is emphatically clear that EPA has both the authority and the obligation to protect public health and regulate dangerous air pollution like greenhouse gases,” Pallone added. “The Supreme Court’s blatant dismissal of the will of Congress is an alarming display of hubris, the consequences of which will be felt far beyond this case. 

Unlike many of his colleagues, Pallone suggested an aggressive climate agenda could still be carried out by the EPA after the decision, writing “EPA continues to have many powerful tools at its disposal and there is more both Congress and the President can do to meet the climate crisis head-on.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), meanwhile, said in a memorandum Thursday morning that the ruling could only be countered through legislation and showed the need for the clean energy tax credit bill he has spearheaded. 

“The Supreme Court’s effort to protect polluters that spew poison into our air and water continues apace,” he wrote. “The Republicans on the Supreme Court are not going to allow any meaningful administration efforts to combat climate change. It’s crystal clear. The only way to tackle this problem is through congressional action, which is why it’s so important that Congress pas our clean energy tax credit package.” 

Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has staked out a position as among the most aggressive Democrats in the Senate on climate issues, tweeted Thursday “For our planet, for our rights, and for our very future, expand the Supreme Court.”

In a longer statement, Markey expanded on the call to add seats to the court, writing “Today’s ruling lets polluters turn back the clock on fifty years of reduced pollution and improved air quality all across the country. The result of this dangerous decision is an EPA that is undermined in its ability to protect the public from harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.” 

“We cannot sit by as a captured, illegitimate, and far-right Supreme Court majority eviscerates the authorities that the government has had for decades to address greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels and prevent climate chaos,” he added. 

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) called the ruling “a significantly damaging environmental decision” and also called for legislation to shore up the powers at issue. 

“The consequences will impact our health, our economy and the planet that our children and grandchildren will inherit. It’s as important as ever for Congress to step up to pass meaningful legislation to address the climate crisis and speed our transition to a clean energy economy,” she said.  

Ocasio-Cortez, Pallone, Wyden, Markey and Shaheen were all among the nearly 200 Congressional Democrats who joined an amicus brief in January on the side of the EPA in the case. 

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez carbon emmissions Ed Markey Ed Markey EPA Frank Pallone Frank Pallone Jeanne Shaheen Obama Ron Wyden Ron Wyden Supreme Court
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