AOC calls Supreme Court EPA ruling on power plant emissions ‘catastrophic’

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Progressive New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that the Supreme Court’s decision on the Clean Air Act is “catastrophic.” 

In a Thursday morning tweet, the Democratic firebrand and climate justice advocate swiped at the Supreme Court.

“Catastrophic. A filibuster carveout is not enough,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet.”

In a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacked broad statutory authority to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a protest during International Workers Day in Foley Square in Manhattan, May 1, 2022.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a protest during International Workers Day in Foley Square in Manhattan, May 1, 2022. (Reuters/Jeenah Moon)

At issue in West Virginia v. EPA was whether, under the Clean Air Act, Congress constitutionally authorized the EPA to implement regulations on states to reduce carbon dioxide pollution by moving away from coal-fired power plants to other forms of energy.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’ But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d). A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”

In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan – joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer – said that the decision strips the EPA of the power Congress gave it to respond to “the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”

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“The subject matter of the regulation here makes the Court’s intervention all the more troubling. Whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change. And let’s say the obvious: The stakes here are high. Yet the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions,” she said. “The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening. Respectfully, I dissent.”

Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant, Nov. 18, 2021, in Craig, Colorado.

Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant, Nov. 18, 2021, in Craig, Colorado. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The ruling comes the same day as a United Nations panel’s report warned of the dire effects of climate change tied to carbon emissions.

Nearly 20 most Republican-led states and coal companies had sued to block the Biden administration from implementing new climate change policy and the Justice Department said that a federal plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants would not happen before the end of the year.

The Supreme Court agreed to preemptively review EPA’s authority to issue such a regulation in the first place. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to members of the media in Washington on Jan. 13, 2022.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to members of the media in Washington on Jan. 13, 2022. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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While West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice released a statement applauding the decision, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed what he called “the MAGA Court.” Initial reaction largely fell along party lines.

Power plants account for approximately 30% of carbon dioxide output. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.