Posted June 30, 2022
Following is a statement from Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel and legal director of the National Employment Law Project, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA:
Today, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority (6-3) sided with the fossil fuel industry in limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act. By weakening the EPA’s ability to tackle climate change, the Court has further imperiled the planet and our lives. Indigenous leaders and those on the frontlines of the climate crisis in the U.S. and across the globe not only look to protect future generations but to stem the current dangers and suffering of communities whose lives, livelihoods, and stability are at risk—disproportionately poor people and communities of color.
By weakening EPA’s ability to tackle climate change, the Court has further imperiled the planet and our lives.
This decision is a blow to workers facing the consequences of climate change on the job and in their communities and a blow to the critical role government plays in holding corporations accountable and protecting our communities. This decision also solidifies the disgraceful global standing of the U.S., which has the resources to be a climate leader but instead chooses to be a major polluter, refusing leadership and accountability.
This decision, like several in this term, represents a flashpoint in the decades-long extremist and racist project to dismantle the value of good government that works for all. Administrative agencies such as the EPA and the Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board are charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our communities. These agencies enforce and interpret social and economic laws, and the values that animate them, by ensuring that corporations conform to those standards. These agencies, which are expert in their fields, are charged by Congress with sustaining proper pay and just benefits, secure and safe jobs, workers’ collective organizing, and supports at each stage in a worker’s life, especially for those that have been excluded and ignored.
As Justice Kagan states in her dissent, “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.’” The majority’s disregard for what people—and particularly people of color—are facing in their daily lives as we face a deepening climate crisis is another example of this Court’s results-oriented overreach in favor of business interests. Looking at changing temperatures alone, we see the risks heat poses to workers of color. Occupational segregation—redlining in the workplace—places Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and immigrant workers into occupations and industries where employers often fail to provide workers relief from heat. We reject any suggestion that federal agencies cannot use their authority to address these life and death issues that are clearly within their purview.
Today’s decision will further erode the public’s confidence in this branch of government. The ruling creates a new vague “major questions” doctrine and ignores clear Congressional language and intent in order to stymie a federal agency’s ability to consider regulating corporate impacts on clean air. This Supreme Court aims its ire at federal agencies’ ability to enforce and regulate critical protections—in effect rendering those protections impotent.
We are in solidarity with those who lead the way forward in this climate crisis that is already here. We will join workers and our partners in fighting back against the wrongheaded efforts of this Court and will continue to support building worker power to counter this and other disgraceful decisions.