Declare an environmental emergency, Mr. President!

Today the Supreme Court dealt another devastating blow to our health, environment and civil rights with their West Virginia vs. EPA decision.

Action: Write to Joe and tell him to “flex his powers.”

Contact President Biden here:

Here is a sample you can use and it just fits into the word limit. However, length isn’t important. Speaking from the heart is.

“Dear Joe,

(This is a generic paragraph…Feel free to start from scratch, or edit and personalize with your own experiences with the effects of climate change or those of your family.) In June, a heat dome over the central and eastern US caused deaths, power outages, closed schools, and the deaths of 2,000 cattle. More than 100 million people were under heat alert and advised to stay indoors. The 2018 National Climate Assessment found that the frequency of heat waves has tripled since the 1960s, and that the average heat-wave season has increased by 45 days. This, along with the toxic air pollution of power plants, threatens all of us, but especially the poor, children, the elderly, and those who must labor or live outside.

We now face another summer of drought, heat, storms and fires, while the dark-money members of SCOTUS, in air-conditioned comfort, tear down desperately needed climate protections for the profit of corporate polluters. By limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate power plant emissions in West Virginia v. EPA, they made a defacto decision that already-born lives don’t matter.

But Joe, you are president to the rest of us. You recently used the Defense Production Act to boost renewable energy manufacturing under the guidance of workers, environmental justice communities, and other impacted people.

Now, we need you to use your legal authority to declare a climate emergency – ban new federal fossil fuel leasing, halt permit approvals for new pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, and stop new gas exports.

Using authorities under the National Emergencies Act and the Defense Production Act, you can also halt crude oil exports, stop offshore oil and gas drilling, restrict international fossil fuel investment and rapidly manufacture and distribute clean and renewable energy systems. 

By 2019, most Americans believed in climate change, 8 in 10 understood that human activity was fueling it and two-thirds said that President Trump was doing too little to tackle the problem. We were ready in 2020 for a president to take us into the next century of a safer and cleaner world.

Flex your power, Joe.”

Other Voices

Climate Justice Alliance Condemns the Increased Politicization of the Supreme Court, Demands Regulation of Polluting Industries to Safeguard Frontline Communities

On the heels of the devastating decision from the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to abandon people’s right to bodily self-determination last week by overturning Roe v. Wade, today they further diminish the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Black, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, poor white communities, and other frontline communities most affected by the climate crisis, a further assault on our bodies and rights. 

Effectively, the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency ruling limits the established powers of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses (though a 2007 ruling stated they could be regulated by the Clean Air Act) from power plants that are overwhelmingly located in disenfranchised communities. The dissenting justices in the vote stated “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time. The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.” Neither can we  – as this ruling clearly undermines the broad powers of the EPA to regulate pollution, which is needed to address the deepening climate crisis and frontline communities most impacted by inaction. 

CJA Co-Executive Director Bineshi Albert pointed out,“The Environmental Protection Agency, at minimum, should be able to regulate emissions, however now even that is being called into question with this ruling by the largely Republican-influenced Supreme Court. Those on the frontlines of the climate crisis fought hard to enact the Clean Air Act and other environmental justice protections, and we can’t afford for these to be eroded. Instead of subordinating the US Government to the needs and profits of the oil, coal and gas industries and the politicians in their pockets, the Supreme Court should ensure that people’s health and well-being be safeguarded and protected.”

Make no mistake – those who will be most harmed by this decision are Indigenous Peoples, Black, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, poor white communities,women of color, and other frontline communities who continue to bear the brunt of the burden of our interlinked economic, racial, social and climate crises. In a system supposedly constructed with integrated checks and balances, the SCOTUS has taken it upon themselves to overturn long-held precedents, with no regard for justice. 

For generations, we have battled to secure self-determination and equal protection under the law for our communities, but in less than a year we’ve seen the courts take away bodily autonomy and the right to choose, limit the ability to enforce Miranda rights, protect police liability, compromise the authority of states to protect their constituents by overturning state-based gun reform laws, and block residents of Puerto Rico from receiving federal benefits. All of these protect the police state, keep people in poverty, protect corporations at the expense of the people and the environment. These rulings further de-legitimize SCOTUS ability to uphold justice. 

“Our government can’t protect our children and communities from guns, our government can’t protect people from forced pregnancies, and now it can’t protect our lungs from toxic pollution,” says Maria Lopez-Nunez, Deputy Director, Ironbound Community Corporation and CJA Board Members. “The Supreme Court is really calling into question the purpose of the government with this ruling. After fighting for decades against environmental racism it’s hard to find faith in our government but not in our communities. At the end of the day only the people will save the people. We must keep fighting.” Enough is enough. “[We] are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” as Fannie Lou Hamer named in 1964 at a rally with Macolm X, “For three hundred years, we’ve given them time. We want a change. We want a change in this society in America because, you see, we can no longer ignore the facts.” We have the facts and we have little time. We know that the right is pulling out all the stops to maintain control and “protect white life”. The Biden Administration and Congress must take bold, visionary, and decisive steps NOW to:

  • Hold the Supreme Court accountable to uphold justice immediately, including exploring options like expanding the court.
  • Ensure consistent, immediate, and strong regulation by the EPA to stop climate crisis impacts in frontline communities – protections that will also address the historic harm of pollution to our rights and our bodies. 
  • Ensure Justice40 investments go directly to EJ communities, cause no harm to EJ communities, and ensure robust community input on its applications and enforcement across all agencies to address the deepening climate crisis.
  • Use President Biden’s executive powers (for which CJA issued a letter along with 1,4000 organizations) to immediately:
    • 1) ban all new oil and gas contracts on federal areas,
    • 2) stop approving fossil fuel projects, and
    • 3) declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act that will unlock special powers to fast track renewable projects that will benefit us all.

Additional Quotes from Climate Justice Alliance Members

“The disgraceful Supreme Court ruling is moving backward, while the majority of the country demands and is taking meaningful action on the climate crisis. For more than a decade, New Jersey environmental justice (EJ) leaders fought for a bill to protect their communities. The bill finally passed in 2020, and is now strongest EJ law in the country, protecting communities that are already overburdened with polluting industries that impact their health. And we need to go further, we need the federal government and the EPA to also be able to regulate emissions that cause climate change and hold corporations accountable across the nation. We need Congress and the White House to immediately remove all fossil fuel subsidies that support polluting coal, gas, and oil production; to enact legislation and executive orders that end the use of fossil fuels; to disallow pollution trading and offsets; and invest into a clean, emissions-free, community-controlled energy system. We are doing the work to prevent devastating impacts on our communities who bear the brunt of this crisis – we need our federal government to follow the lead of frontline communities and do the same.” 

– Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance

“The decades-long effort by the fossil fuel industry to strip EPA of its ability to protect our communities when power plants are emitting greenhouse gasses is a direct affront to environmental justice. In California, the majority of fossil-fueled power plants are polluting in low-income communities of color.  Because the entire Western grid is connected, a polluting power plant in Southeast LA can be supplying power to wealthy White communities in Utah; same as when California imports power, frontline communities in Arizona, where coal-fired power plants are operating in low-income communities of color, are being polluted. We need a nationwide regulatory strategy, and the Court has stolen that from us. Our communities demand better; we demand action from the Biden administration and from Congress.” 

– Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Executive Director, Communities for a Better Environment

“For decades, frontline environmental justice communities all across this country have waged powerful campaigns to protect our children and loved ones from breathing toxic air, drinking contaminated water, and facing life threatening illness from waste buried in the lands where we live, work and play. All of this hangs in the balance in the face of this political moment. The rightwing extremist Supreme Court majority have laid bare in each of these decisions from Roe to West Virginia their contempt for racial and gender justice, and their willingness to sacrifice our survival for the sake of corporate power and profit. They have already illegitimized themselves, and our power must be reclaimed in our organizing and resistance.”

– Jaron Browne, Organizing Director, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Climate Justice Alliance is a member-led organization of 84 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and support networks in the climate justice movement. We work to build real solutions to the climate crisis through building local, living, regenerative economies while pushing back against false promises from corporate controlled interests.


(Politico) “The Supreme Court had ruled 15 years ago that EPA has regulatory authority over carbon dioxide and other types of pollution driving climate change. But the new, more conservative court ruled Thursday that its power to act aggressively to curb carbon pollution is relatively limited.”

(CNBC) “The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set standards on climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants.

In its 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said that Congress, not the EPA, has the power to create a broad system of cap-and-trade regulations to limit emissions from existing power plants in a bid to transition away from coal to renewable energy sources.

The court’s ruling on the case affects the government’s authority to set standards for pollutants like carbon dioxide from power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act. The decision is a major setback for the Biden administration’s agenda to combat climate change, specifically the goal to zero out carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and cut in half the country’s emissions by 2100.

The case stems from the EPA’s directive in 2015 to coal power plants to either reduce production or subsidize alternate forms of energy. That order was never implemented because it was immediately challenged in court.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the second-largest source of pollution in the U.S. behind transportation, according to the EPA. The U.S. is also the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases behind China, making it a key player in global efforts to combat climate change.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the case, known as West Virginia v. the Environmental Protection Agency, which was joined by the Supreme Court’s other five conservative members.

The decision is the first time a majority opinion explicitly cited the so-called major questions doctrine to justify a ruling. That controversial doctrine holds that with issues of major national significance, a regulatory agency must have clear statutory authorization from Congress to take certain actions, and not rely on its general agency authority.

Roberts wrote, “There is little reason to think Congress assigned such decisions” about the regulations in question to the EPA, despite the agency’s belief that “Congress implicitly tasked it, and it alone, with balancing the many vital considerations of national policy implicated in deciding how Americans will get their 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.’” Roberts wrote. “But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” Roberts added.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, which was joined by the court’s two other liberals. “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to ’the most pressing environmental challenge of our time, ” Kagan wrote in the dissent.

“The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening,” Kagan wrote. She also said, “The majority claims it is just following precedent, but that is not so. The Court has never even used the term ‘major questions doctrine’ before.”

A White House spokesperson on Thursday said the EPA ruling was “another devastating decision from the Court that aims to take our country backwards.”

“President Biden will not relent in using the authorities that he has under law to protect public health and tackle the climate change crisis,” the spokesperson said. “Our lawyers will study the ruling carefully and we will find ways to move forward under federal law.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the ruling “adds to a number of dangerously outrageous decisions that have rightly tarnished the public’s confidence in the Court.”

“First on gun safety, then on abortion, and now on the environment – this MAGA, regressive, extremist Supreme Court is intent on setting America back decades, if not centuries,” Schumer said. “The Republican-appointed majority of the MAGA Court is pushing the country back to a time when robbers barons and corporate elites have complete power and average citizens have no say.”

Schumer was referring to the court’s rulings last week, one of which undid the nearly half-century-old federal right to abortion, the other invalidating some of New York’s restrictions on carry permits for handguns.

Fight dates back to Obama administration

The court’s six-justice conservative majority has been skeptical of the federal agency’s authority to set national standards.

The legal fighting over the EPA’s authority began several years ago when the Obama administration set strict carbon limits for each state in an effort to reduce emissions from power plants, and urged states to meet limits by shifting to cleaner energy alternatives like wind and solar.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was temporarily blocked in 2016 by the Supreme Court and then repealed in 2019 by the Trump administration, which argued that the plan exceeded the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. It argued that the act only allowed the agency to set standards on the physical premises of a power plant — or “inside the fenceline.” 

The Trump administration proposed more lenient standards to regulate emissions only from existing coal-fired steam plants, a policy called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. The revision was challenged by states and environmental groups and ultimately struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Since then, there hasn’t been an EPA standard with respect to carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Republican attorneys general led by West Virginia, a major coal producer, along with coal companies and industry groups, pursued the case, arguing that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to transition the country to cleaner energy sources and that such authority belongs to Congress.

Lawyers representing the EPA and U.S. utility industry lobby groups pushed back on arguments restricting the agency’s authority, arguing that doing so would prompt lawsuits against power providers.”

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