The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Thursday in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency that Joe Biden’s EPA improperly exceeded the authority delegated to it by Congress as part of its climate change agenda. White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy immediately vowed the administration would continue the transition to green energy, “regardless of the Supreme Court.”
The court’s decision significantly cut the EPA’s power to regulate emissions. In addition to affecting the White House climate agenda, it could limit the authority of federal administrative agencies throughout the executive branch.
The court agreed by a vote of 6-3 with a group of Republican-led states and energy producers that the EPA does not have expansive power over carbon emissions through the federal Clean Air Act. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, as the three liberal members of the court joined in dissent.
The plan challenged in the case was initiated by Barack Obama as the “Clean Power Plan” in 2015. Its stated purpose was to fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions from power plants, and required shifting electricity production toward natural gas facilities and wind farms. The plan was put on hold in 2016 because of legal challenges by several energy-producing states.
In 2019, President Donald Trump repealed the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. The new plan gave discretion to states to set environmental standards and gave energy producers options for compliance. The Trump administration argued that the Clean Power Plan exceeded the authority granted to the EPA by Congress.
In 2021, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Trump administration repeal of the Obama plan and the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. The Supreme Court reversed that decision on Thursday, ruling the original Obama plan was issued without legal authority.
The ruling found that if Congress intends to grant an executive branch administrative agency the power to make “decisions of vast economic and political significance,” it must make a clear and definite statement of that intent in federal law.
McCarthy appeared on the Thursday broadcast of “The Lead” on CNN, where she said that the federal government would continue “the transition to clean energy, regardless of the Supreme Court.” She vowed the Biden administration will “keep moving forward, even though the Supreme Court would like to look backwards and hold us back.”
She admitted the decision limits the power of the EPA to “use one section of the Clean Air Act” as it had been, but does not prevent it from “acting in a regulatory way.” She added that Biden will continue to use “bold steps throughout the whole of government” to enact his climate plan.
McCarthy went on to say, “We’re not giving up. We’re actually going to double down. And we know that we have the legal authority.”