Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Aug. 16, 2022

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Washington reacts to Supreme Court decision curbing EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

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The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday to curb the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power plant greenhouse gas emissions means that — at least for now — such efforts will be undertaken by state governments.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who is appearing this morning before the media to talk about the ruling, has indicated he wants to lead the way.

Gov. Jay Inslee slammed the court’s decision Thursday, condemning it as a “stunning reversal of environmental law” that “took a wrecking ball to the ability of the federal government to restrain pollution.”

Inslee said Washington must redouble its efforts to fight climate change and reduce pollution in the absence of federal action.

“We are sounding the alarm and were proud of what we’ve done, but this decision makes it clear that we’ll have to accelerate our efforts when it comes to climate change and pollution,” Inslee said.

Ongoing policy efforts — like the development of the Climate Commitment Act and the Clean Fuel Standard, as well as plans to shut down a TransAlta coal-fired power plant in Centralia by 2025 — will continue, Inslee said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and California Gov. Gavin Newsom also signed a written statement with Inslee to comment on the ruling.

“We are deeply disappointed in this regressive decision, but it only hardens our resolve to act with the boldness and urgency the climate crisis demands,” they wrote. “At a time when we’re seeing devastating droughts, wildfires, and storms become the norm, the Supreme Court has sided with polluters at the expense of the American people. This ruling makes clear that the actions of governors and state legislatures are more important than ever before.”

By a 6-3 vote, with conservatives in the majority, the court said the Clean Air Act does not give the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming.

At the state level, there is a deep political divide on climate action. Many states controlled by Republicans have not passed laws to control greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, some states under Democratic control have moved ahead with legislation, including Washington which in recent years has passed one of the nation’s most comprehensive set of laws.

In Washington, state laws now in place seek to phase out the use of fossil fuels in power production, increase the use of low or zero-carbon motor fuels and develop a cap-and-invest program to reduce over-time greenhouse gas pollution.

“To all of those critics who say that a state is too small to make a difference, this is a ferocious and categorical rejection of that idea,” said Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, who was the architect of much of the state climate policy in the Washington Legislature as chairman of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. “It has never mattered more than it does right now for states to lead…and make climate action happen.”

Carlyle noted that action on the climate front also happened in states where legislatures have opted not to pass regulatory laws and without federal action. As solar and wind power have become more competitive in cost, increasing numbers of coal plants have shut down across the country. He said these market forces have resulted in some of the most substantive reductions in emissions.

“There is hope,” Carlyle said.

Inslee has been a long-time advocate of governmental action to reduce greenhouse gases and made climate change a central issue in his unsuccessful 2020 campaign for the presidency.

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