Environmental Justice Advocates Criticize Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court’s decision to limit how the Environmental Protection Agency regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants could worsen an already dire situation for those most affected by climate change and air pollution, experts say. defenders.

Environmental and climate justice advocates across the United States are denouncing the court’s 6-3 ruling, saying it will be felt most by communities of color and poor communities, who find themselves near power plants in percentages higher than the national average. They are asking the EPA to find alternative ways to limit carbon dioxide emissions and other forms of air pollution, and for Congress to give the agency the authority to do so.

the court does not ban EPA of regulating carbon emissions, in fact, Chief Justice John Roberts said limit carbon emissions moving the US away from burning coal to produce electricity “may be sensible for the crisis of the day.”

Despite this, advocates said the ruling puts disadvantaged communities at risk of further harm from the effects of climate change and air pollution. They are also concerned about the EPA’s ability to enforce other key environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act.

The Supreme Court’s decision “denies relief to communities of color and black, as well as poor communities disproportionately exposed to power plant pollution and vulnerable to climate change,” said Monique Harden, deputy director for law and policy at the Supreme Court. Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. The Associated Press.

Harden’s organization has done extensive research on the effects of heavy industry on people living along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor, also known as Cancer Alley, a stretch of petrochemical plants and oil refineries.

That corridor touches New Orleans and Baton Rouge, two cities that have experienced intense storm surges and hurricanes made worse by climate change in the past 20 years. And Baton Rouge has a power plant, Great Cajun IIwith two coal-fired units owned by Cleco Power.

Thousands of miles to the west, the Supreme Court decision was just as alarming for Darryl Molina Sarmiento, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment. She said the ruling is part of a decades-long effort by the fossil fuel industry to strip the EPA of its ability to protect vulnerable communities, including those who live next to power plants.

“Because the entire western grid is connected, a polluting power plant in southeast Los Angeles may be supplying power to wealthy white communities in Utah,” he said. The same is true when California imports power from coal-fired power plants in Arizona and surrounding low-income communities of color are polluted, she said.

At a press conference with the Green New Deal Network, a national coalition of environmental organizations, US Representative Jamaal Bowman expressed concern that the decision could set a precedent that will limit the ability of regulatory agencies to protect human health.

“This ruling could potentially undermine all sorts of regulations that try to save lives and promote well-being,” he said. “We cannot, must not and will not allow this court to stop us. The Biden administration must declare a climate emergency immediately and use all powers at its disposal.”

Although carbon dioxide is not a health hazard, it is normally emitted along with many other pollutants that are harmful to the respiratory system, such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. recent research has shown that people of color are disproportionately exposed to this type of air pollution.

“It is our responsibility to respond at this time because we cannot allow the most vulnerable to pay this price,” said Sen. Ed Markey, who was also on the call. “It is up to those of us who have been given some power, some privilege now to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, to participate in this fight.”


Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.


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