02.28.22

Whitehouse Calls on SCOTUS to Reject Polluter “Project” to Tear Down Clean Air Act Authority

Ruling for fossil fuel interests would spread the ‘stench’ of partisanship at the Court

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) released the following statement on today’s oral arguments in West Virginia v. EPA, the Supreme Court case challenging the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act.

“This trumped-up challenge is one prong of a massive, anonymously-funded influence campaign by the fossil fuel industry. Those industry forces are pushing reverse-engineered legal doctrines to torpedo public health and environmental protections, and they’re making their arguments in a proceeding that lacks a ‘case or controversy’ on which to rule. The Court shouldn’t participate in industry-driven projects; it shouldn’t enrich polluting corporations at the expense of public health, welfare, and the environment; and it shouldn’t heed the will of right-wing special interests at the expense of established law and the good of the American people. Endorsing polluters’ position in this case would spread what Justice Sonia Sotomayor has rightly called the ‘stench’ of partisanship at the Court.”

Whitehouse led an amicus curiae brief in the case with fellow senators and counsel of record, University of California, Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

West Virginia v. EPA gives fossil fuel interests and allies another chance to hinder EPA’s authority to regulate the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change. In 2016, after the Obama administration promulgated the Clean Power Plan, fossil fuel interests obtained an unprecedented ruling — by five Republican Justices in a partisan 5-4 decision — that prevented the Clean Power Plan from taking effect. Afterward, the Trump administration rescinded the Clean Power Plan and issued an industry-driven replacement rule with virtually no effect on carbon emissions. In 2021, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Trump/industry rule. Now, although no rule is in effect, the Court’s Republicans have taken up a case that could allow them to block the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases altogether, or hobble safety regulation generally.

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