Could a Supreme Court Decision Lead to Lowering Carbon Emissions?

After a rash of disappointing verdicts from the Supreme Court recently, the justices finally handed down a powerful decision that could have a significant impact on pollution levels in the United States. By a 6-2 vote, the justices told the state of Texas that it would have to comply with efforts to limit pollution since it impacted the air above other states.

Though states are generally permitted to make their own environmental regulations, that ideology is put into question when the consequences seep over into other states. Such is the case with pollution. When southern states pollute, that pollution travels downwind toward the northern states, thereby harming them. Ultimately, the Supreme Court agrees with the EPA that southern states are breaking “Good Neighbor” provisions by knowingly releasing pollution that taints the air of other states.

While these particular EPA regulations have been entertained for the past 15 years and officially put on the books in 2011, enforcement has been minimal due to an ongoing series of legal challenges. However, now that the Supreme Court has weighed in, it seems like the rules can finally have the influence they were designed to have.

The decision will affect heavy-polluters like coal plants the hardest. Critics of the EPA’s rules say that limiting businesses’ emissions will weaken affected states’ economies and cost jobs. On the other hand, the Obama administration offers up data showing that lowering pollution will save up to 45,000 lives annually.

The Supreme Court was also unsympathetic to Texas’s plea to delay enforcement of these rules. “EPA is not obliged… to postpone its action even a single day,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her majority opinion. To no one’s surprise, Justice Antonin Scalia slammed the decision, calling it typical “bureaucracy” and saying it would enable “rogue administration of the law.”

What makes this decision even more monumental is that the Supreme Court does not have a favorable record when it comes to upholding environmental regulations. The conservative majority has generally done little to protect the environment, although in this particular case, Justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy broke usual lines. Justice Samuel Alito abstained from the case.

We’ll be able to determine whether the most recent decision marks a permanent shift when the Supreme Court announces its ruling on a similar case. The Court must determine whether the EPA is permitted to strengthen pollution standards on things like power plants in order to combat global warming.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Warren Webber
Warren W2 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Janice Thompson
Janice T3 years ago

They could but will they.

Johanna Moreno
Johanna Moreno3 years ago

United States is guilty for destroying the environment and wildlife for consumerism. United States' government is a corrupt monster.

Jane H.
Jane H3 years ago

Hope they decide what's good for the common wealth (or health)

Gene Jacobson
Gene J3 years ago

"What makes this decision even more monumental is that the Supreme Court does not have a favorable record when it comes to upholding environmental regulations."

Or any other kind benefiting other than the top 1%. So, to answer the question the headline poses, well, yes. But I don't know that it will. This Court has not shown the slightest inclination to having the best interests of all of this country's citizens at heart. I don't think this signifies a new trend. I wish it did and I applaud this decision because if there is anything we need by urgently doing it is this. I am afraid we are in the too-little too-late position on climate change but trying, at least that, is better than simply dying. Which IS the alternative. Not in our generation, but in not many down the road, mass extinction caused by the avarice and carelessness of the stewards of this beautiful blue oasis in space over the last 150 years and however many more we continue on this path until the evidence is so overwhelming even the top 1% will have to be fearful of what is to come. Watch the movie Elysium, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster - tell me that can't happen here, tell me that isn't the long term plan of our 1%? You may tell me, but I'm not likely to believe you. Now that the seed has been planted, I'd be unsurprised if there were not already secret research underway to create a haven for the rich while the rest of us live with they have done to mother earth.

Artem V.
Artem Vyzhenko3 years ago

Let's minimize carbon emissions and save the nature and thus - ourselves!

Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.