Wed, Jun

“I Cannot Think of Many Things More Frightening”


ACCORDING TO LIZ - These are the words of Justice Elena Kagan in her dissent about the current Supreme Court’s overreach in taking the side of Big Oil in West Virginia v. EPA. 

The Court’s decision today, which threw out the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the carbon emissions of fossil-fuel-burning power plants under the Clean Air Act, is as appalling as it was expected. 

Yet again, corporate greed prevailed against the health and interests of ordinary Americans. 

Corporate financing behind the Federalist Society and the Republican Party has bought and paid for the death of the future in favor of present profit. 

Roberts admitted that “capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’” But then claimed that: “it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.” 

Say what?? 

Congress did. Explicitly. 

In enacting the Environmental Protection Act in 1970, Congress gave the EPA the administrative authority to implement and apply the laws that protect our land and air and water. 

A better question is what the fu¢k gave the Supreme Court the right to break laws passed by Congress? 

Or as Kagan more politely phrased it: “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy.” 

The American system of government as laid out in 1787 specifically divided power between an executive, comprised of the President, his cabinet and most Federal agencies; a bicameral legislature to draft and enact laws; and independent judiciary to interpret the laws. 

As with all laws, Congress left it to an administrative agency – in this case, the EPA – to decide how that Act was to be implemented and applied. That’s what regulations do: they break down the steps needed to enact the legislation and then implement and apply laws. 

Interpreting does not mean overturning and must be based on judicial precedence, not the ramblings of a discredited 17th century witch trial judge or the greedy demands of fossil fuel barons losing out to renewable energy. 

If Congress felt the EPA was coloring outside of the box assigned it, Congress would have taken action long before Trump came to power. In truth, pressure from the people has always been to increase its regulatory power – to clean up the smog, to stop polluting our lakes and rivers, to protect those living downwind of smoke-belching factories. 

This case threatens the federal government’s ability to write and enforce any emissions-related regulations, regulations which are desperately needed to fend off global warming. And ensures worldwide efforts to mitigate climate disaster are imperiled. 

It will also reverberate through other rulings – on labor, on fair pricing, on Wall Street oversight and on voting rights – severely limiting the federal government’s ability to impose ANY regulations to protect people and planet. 

It is only big business that objects because every regulation costs them money that they would prefer to put in their own pockets (or use for the company to buy back shares thus raising the value of those owned by their executives). 

Of course, they don’t care for smog driving an increase in childhood asthma or lead in the water stunting brain growth or PFAs inhibiting or mutating human reproductive systems. 

Let’s put children to work, allow pharmaceutical companies to charge the moon for life-and-death medication, let corporate lawyers to game the system against the middle class and small businesses. 

Let’s ignore the needs of the poor and marginalized communities – who really cares about indigenous people or those of color or immigrants? 

As long as it’s not in the fossil fuel moguls’ back yards. And that all smog blows downwind into the white trash neighborhoods. 

So what can be done to shift the mentality of the US government including the Supreme Court into putting the general good ahead of corporate profiteering and individual selfishness? Something which is the norm in every other developed country? 

The current Supreme Court’s rulings in Roe and now EPA forecasts a dismal future for Americans with more rewriting of laws in favor of personal biases of court members and their fiscal backers, and in defiance of Congress and the President. 

Perhaps we should move all fossil fuel executives and their families and the six justices who don’t feel carbon emissions are worthy of regulating and all of their children and grandchildren to Cancer Alley in Louisiana or among the hundreds of thousands of oil wells that have poisoned the water table in central Pennsylvania. 

Without the possibility of parole. Or bottled water. 

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)