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Supreme Court v. Planet Earth

The US Supreme Court curbs the EPA's power to fight climate change

By Jen SullivanPublished about a year ago 6 min read
Supreme Court v. Planet Earth
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Did any of us think that the US Supreme Court would stop after their most recent attacks on the public? First, ruling that religious schools must be included in assistance programs in Maine, then taking away women’s rights to medical privacy and the right to control their own bodies, and then allowing teacher-led prayer in public schools. Now they are going after the one thing that affects us all: air.

I remember learning about “global warming” back in high school in the 1990s, before scientists adopted the term “climate change” after learning that more was happening than just higher temperatures. Climate change has been a growing concern for decades, with data dating back to the 1950s, but unfortunately, there is still political debate about whether or not the climate is affected by man. Political debate about data presented by scientists.

Climate is not political. It is life. It affects the existence of all life on the planet Earth.

On Thursday, June 30, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia v. EPA that the Environmental Protection Agency is limited in restricting carbon emissions, the very thing that contributes to climate change. Former President Obama had put in place regulations to help control climate change, or at least to lessen the impact we, as a country, had on the global crisis. Former President Trump then reversed those regulations in favor of big business and the coal industry. Critics of the EPA regulations claim that they cause energy costs to increase.

It isn’t about energy, it’s about politics.

In 2020, West Virginia was the second-highest state in coal production, an industry known for carbon emissions. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has spoken publicly about his support for the coal industry, likely for two reasons: political support and his own coal interests in Enersystems, Inc, a company he founded. Manchin has been vocal about supporting the coal industry and opted to withdraw support from President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan for several reasons, including energy concerns.

A country powered by renewable energy has no use for coal, and that is what people like Joe Manchin do not want.

The political debate over coal has gone on for years, even as renewable energy has grown in popularity. Wind turbines, solar power, and hydropower are all viable power options, even if just to supplement for high polluters, such as coal. In 2021, 38.3 percent of the power in the United States was produced by natural gas, 18.9 percent by nuclear, 21.8 percent by coal, and 20.1 percent by renewable energy. In 2010, coal usage was 975.05 short tons, versus 538.61 in 2019. It dropped to 435.83 in 2020 due to the pandemic. Environmental regulations had an effect on coal usage, causing emissions to drop below those produced by transportation.

If you remember, former President Obama spoke highly of preserving the environment and worked toward the goal of reducing the effect the United States has on the environment. His Clean Power Plan was designed to cut emissions from electricity production, moving toward cleaner energy in efforts to fight climate change. The Trump administration instead came up with their own plan, Affordable Clean Energy, which had fewer EPA regulations and replaced Obama’s plan.

Many have speculated, myself included, that the push to remove carbon emissions regulations is to allow the coal industry to recover, an industry that is outdated and inefficient in today’s modern world of scientific understanding. I have no doubt that our reliance on fossil fuels in the United States is heavily political, with politicians pretending to care about the poor, out-of-work coal workers to get their votes.

Some claim that their concerns are the cost of electricity for the people. Yes, the costs of renewable energy are higher initially, but is that not worth it to have cleaner air? How many medical bills could be avoided if we had cleaner air and water? People use too much electricity anyway, so a higher cost would maybe convince them to go outside and enjoy the planet. Yes, myself included—do I really need to spend so much time sitting at my computer on those beautiful spring and fall days?

Perhaps the attack on the air we breathe is greater to me because I am one of the millions in America who have asthma. It is hereditary in my family—there was nothing I could do to prevent it. However, this is a bigger issue than a growing concern for asthmatics. Our climate affects the entire planet, including plants and animals that are necessary for our survival. Don’t think we need animals to survive? Look at everything that is happening to save honey bees, the pollinators of food.

My brother, a man with a political science degree and a deep interest in and understanding of government, laws, and politics, has pointed out that the decisions the Supreme Court has made conflict with each other, granting state rights over federal in some cases, and the opposite in others. I cannot help but wonder: are the justices on the Supreme Court fair and unbiased? Or are they loyal to the man who appointed them, Donald Trump? Or are they allowing their own personal interests and religious beliefs to sway their vote?

One thing is for sure: the Supreme Court is not doing what is best for the country, its people, or the planet as a whole.

Do we really want companies to regulate themselves on pollution? How many companies would put the health of the people over profits? Have we not seen the outcome of this when Erin Brockovich took on Pacific Gas & Electric? A case later made famous by the movie starring Julia Roberts. What’s next? Allowing food companies to determine if their food is safe for consumption, ignoring the FDA? Where does it stop?

The real question I faced just a few minutes ago is “do I even bother to recycle anymore?” It certainly feels like we are dooming the planet, and that just makes it hard to care.

I love this planet more than anything. I always have. I love the trees, the blue skies, the refreshing spring showers… It hurts me that six people are able to determine the effects that a country filled with corporations has on the entire planet.

Today I am really glad that I never had children who will inherit a mess, and I feel sad for the children of the future who might never see those blue skies that I cherish so much. To see the stars on a clear night, far away from pollution. To see clear water and enjoy every bit of beauty this planet has to offer.

All because of six people.

supreme court

About the Creator

Jen Sullivan

I am a gamer, a geek, a writer, an entrepreneur, and a gardener, among many things. I have a lot of knowledge and opinions to share with the world, along with creations from my chaotic mind.

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