The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Thursday, June 30th that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority anymore to regulate dioxide emissions from power plants without congressional authorization. This decision severly limits the policy tools the EPA can use to fight climate change.

In recent weeks, the very conservative Supreme Court implemented and overturned laws on contentious American issues. On June 24, it overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which guaranteed women the right to abortion. This time, the Supreme Court overturned a 2007 decision where it had recognized the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by a majority (5-4).

These recent changes in the American justice system impact the whole nation in the present and create stark warning for the future. The president of the United States, Joe Biden on June 30th in a statement said:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia vs. EPA is another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards.” Joe Biden


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s initial goal was to use its regulatory authority to reduce emissions from 38% coal to 27% by 2030 in West Virginia: The Clean Power Plan Rule, promulgated in 2015.

Patrick Morrissey, attorney General of West Virginia, one of the main plaintiffs in this case, accuses the EPA of abuse of power. Morrisey also represented two large and wealth corporations; the North American Coal Corporation and Westmorereland Mining Holding, LLC. He actually stated in an interview for WSAZ News Channel that:

“This is not a case about climate change. This is a case about separation of powers and ensuring that the legislative branch steps in and an unelected bureaucrats don’t try to win when they don’t have the power to act.”

The final statement of the case by the supremecourt affirmed that the projected changes by the EPA were “to strict that no existing coal plant would have been able to achieve them.”

In this case, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have been too radical with its edict. The Supreme Court concluded that such a restructuring of the country’s energy economy should be authorized by Congress and not by an independent government agency.

Accordingly, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority:

“that the EPA lacks the authority to make sweeping changes to the nation’s power sector without explicit approval from Congress.”

This decision has been considered by the supreme court as a message to the EPA not to take on too much power in the country.


The decision dealt a huge blow to the American green movement and the EPA itself. John Noel is a senior climate campaigner at GreenPeace USA. His reaction to the supreme court release shows how angry and worried many organizations and Americans are.

He stated in a GreenPeace presse release that:

“It is unconscionable that 6 Supreme Court Justice’s have ruled in favor of sacrificing more lives to enrich millionaire coal and oil barons”.

According to green leaders and Americans, the conservative supreme court is again taking the side of rich and influential corporations.

Laura Tesson

Laura Tesson is journalist and political science student at Concordia University. She is editor at Canadian Centre for Strategic Studies (CCSS) and she used to write for the Triton Review, the student-run newspaper at Edmonds College (USA). She got involved for a year to Edmonds Green Team, to engage and empower students to adopt sustainable practices. She is interested in political journalism and sustainability development.

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