At a time when the climate crisis has reached “code red for humanity,” the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agency jeopardizes the wellbeing of people across the globe and future generations. It further endangers communities of color, who are already more vulnerable to adverse climate impacts and are statistically exposed to higher levels of pollution. This deeply disappointing and dangerous ruling narrows the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to effectively address climate pollution from power plants and undermines the successes of the Clean Air Act.

In brief, the court held that the Clean Air Act does not authorize EPA to instruct power plants to shift electricity generation away from fossil fuel generation and toward less-polluting sources of electricity, even though this is by far the most effective, efficient and lowest-cost way of reducing climate pollution from fossil fuel-burning plants. This decision gives coal executives and far-right politicians exactly what they asked for by limiting the EPA’s efforts to set strong, effective carbon pollution standards from power plants that would help protect our communities.

The court’s decision could impact more than just climate; it could embolden right-wing judges and politicians to further threaten our government’s ability to enforce countless laws that protect the public, from ensuring the safety of food and drugs, to protecting workers’ rights, to policing financial fraud and more.

Maine people have benefitted from cleaner air for decades because of the Clean Air Act and the work of the EPA. Despite strong clean air laws in Maine, this ruling puts our health and safety at risk. Although the Supreme Court’s decision will not curtail state-level authority to control pollution, it may embolden future state legislators and administrations to limit Maine’s authority to protect the public, just as EPA’s authority has been limited. Furthermore, as “the tailpipe of the nation,” Maine will be affected by air pollution coming from out of state. That is why national action to reduce power plant pollution is so critical.

We need every tool in the toolbox to stop the onslaught of climate disasters. While today’s ruling damages some important tools, there is hope in that the court did not eliminate EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions more broadly. The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is already happening thanks to the grassroots efforts of environmental organizations like the Sierra Club. Nationally, we have aided in retiring 357 coal plants and defeating the Atlantic Coast and Keystone XL pipelines. Dozens of clean energy, climate and environmental bills have been passed at every level of the government, including here in Maine. With this new ruling, we’ll have to rely on grassroots efforts even more to meet the demands of addressing the climate crisis.

It’s essential that the Biden administration take full advantage of the regulations that remain to make the reductions we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It is time for Congress – including Maine’s congressional delegation – and the Biden administration to pass bold climate legislation, including budget reconciliation, that will rein in corporate polluters and stop the fossil fuel industry from destroying our planet. We have no more time to waste.

My hope remains in the potential for bold climate legislation in the short term, and in the power of our grassroots movement in the long term.

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