Supreme Court’s decision to limit EPA oversight of CO2 emissions ‘a thinly veiled attempt to protect the coal industry,’ Notre Dame expert says

Alan Hamlet is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences. His research focuses on integrated modeling of climate variability and climate change. In response to the recent Supreme Court EPA ruling, Hamlet said the following:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to limit the EPA’s oversight of CO2 emissions from powerplants to individual actions affecting a single plant effectively cuts off the EPA’s ability to mandate widespread change in the energy sector to reduce harmful carbon emissions to the environment. In my opinion, this is a thinly veiled attempt to protect the coal industry from EPA mandates to implement cheaper, renewable energy sources (such as utility-scale solar) and phase out coal-fired powerplants. 

“Furthermore, by relegating these important decisions on environmental policy to Congress rather than the EPA, the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that crucial environmental decisions related to carbon pollution will be made in the political arena, where they seem likely to stall due to the polarized political environment.

“Imagine, by analogy, that in addressing the newly minted Clean Water Act, the EPA had been required to address each sewage outfall as an independent source, as opposed to mandating wastewater treatment standards for primary and secondary treatment across the board for all municipalities. Such a policy would have brought progress on improving water quality in lakes and rivers to a standstill.

“Likewise, the overall effect of this decision will be to greatly slow progress towards meeting greenhouse gas emission targets in the U.S., allow politicians to provide undeserved protection of major sources of carbon pollution such as the coal and oil industries, and ultimately increase climate change impacts at local, regional, national and global scales in coming decades. Following the political agenda of the right, the court is once again moving the country in the wrong direction, weakening the EPA’s efforts to mitigate climate change, and placing authority for crucial environmental decisions in the wrong hands.”