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Inside the Greenhouse is a monthly update on FCNL’s environmental advocacy and the emerging climate issues that impact our work.  

Supreme Court Deals Major Blow to EPA’s Regulatory Power

Smoke Stack
Sam Jotham Sutharson

Late last month, the Supreme Court ruled on a 6-3 basis to constrain the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate emissions from the power sector. Many climate advocates consider the decision to be a blow to the administration’s efforts to address the growing climate crisis.

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The Environmental Protection Agency interpreted a statute of the Clean Air Act as giving the agency power to restrict emissions on a sector-wide basis. To achieve this, the EPA pushed the power sector to use more renewable energy rather than simply reducing emissions from fossil fuels. In West Virginia v. EPA, the Court ruled that this was an overreach of the EPA’s authority.

The decision referenced the “major questions doctrine” as informing the Court’s opinion. The doctrine details that if a federal agency’s actions will have widespread “economic and political significance,” the agency needs to be unambiguously empowered by Congress to take those actions.

Justice Neil Gorsuch stated that this doctrine “ensures that the national government’s power to make the laws that govern us remains where Article I of the Constitution says it belongs—with the people’s elected representatives.” It remains to be seen how this decision will impact future rulings on the ability of federal agencies to address climate change.

The Supreme Court decision is a clear reminder that Congress must pass legislation that will move the United States toward a clean energy economy and help us reach our emissions-reduction goals. 

News and Updates

G7 Leaders Affirm Need for Renewable Energy

During the recent G7 Summit in Germany, President Biden, along with other leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries, acknowledged that energy security will come from renewable energy sources. They also cited Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a reason to continue to invest in natural gas infrastructure.

U.S. dependence on international oil and gas markets dominated by autocratic states is an ongoing source of political and economic instability. Congress needs to pass legislation that accelerates the transition to renewable energy and protects U.S. consumers from volatile energy prices.

Climate as a Driver for Conflict
Two young women hold protest sign that reads: "Stop Fueling Wars"
Mark Dixon

Established research as long identified that climate change acts as an issue multiplier by worsening stress points in our society—stress points like resource scarcity. Climate-induced resource scarcity can often manifest itself in dried-up lakes or crops in areas that are economically dependent on agriculture. This scarcity serves as a crack for conflict to root in. Read more about this intersection in a report from the Center for American Progress.

What We’re Reading & Watching:
Rosalie Ruetz

Rosalie Ruetz

Program Assistant, Sustainable Energy and Environment (2021-2022)

Rosalie Ruetz is the program assistant for sustainable energy and environment.