June 30, 2022

Supreme Court’s Right-Wing Rampage Continues: Whitehouse Decries Decision Curtailing EPA’s Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

West Virginia v. EPA helps polluters and other regulated industries avoid accountability for harms to public health and safety. Whitehouse led colleagues in filing an amicus curiae brief in the case with Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky


Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works and Judiciary Committees, released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision today in West Virginia v. EPA, which undermines the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants:

“The fossil fuel industry’s Republican lackeys challenged an EPA rule that does not exist, meaning there was no ‘case or controversy’ to consider.  But Republican justices threw precedent to the wind and pounced on this challenge.

“It was easy to see this decision coming.  The fossil fuel industry helped to select, vet, and install the FedSoc Six.  They know a Court they can control offers the chance to hobble the EPA, and they know a hobbled EPA is a ticket to pollute.  This decision handed them that ticket.

“Today’s decision also offered what Justice Sotomayor calls the ‘restless and newly constituted’ Republican supermajority an opportunity to smuggle the so-called ‘major questions doctrine,’ a fringe legal theory, into the Court’s jurisprudence.   Tellingly, this very doctrine was invented and pushed by the same right-wing donor interests that built the current supermajority.  As Justice Kagan notes in her dissent, the Court has never even used the term ‘major questions doctrine’ before.  In adopting this right-wing whim whole cloth, the Court opens the door to other challenges by big regulated industries to rules that get in their way, and it saps regulatory agencies of their power to hold corporations accountable for the harms they inflict.  Exactly as intended by the donors who built – and now own – this Court.

“While this ruling does not entirely foreclose EPA from regulating greenhouse gases in the power sector – and indeed, I redouble my calls for EPA to move at warp speed to do exactly that – it is a cause for alarm for all Americans who are rightly concerned about clean air and water and safe medicines, food, consumer products, and working conditions.  Taken to its (il)logical conclusion by a captured Court, ‘major questions doctrine’ can be used to gut almost any regulation right-wing donor interests don’t like.

 “The Court That Dark Money Built has delivered another win for its benefactors – at the potential expense of a livable climate and the basic functioning of our government.”

Whitehouse led colleagues in filing an amicus curiae brief in the case with counsel of record University of California, Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.  Read the brief here.

Meaghan McCabe, (401) 453-5294

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921