Dhe climate policy of American President Joe Biden has fewer chances of being implemented according to a ruling by the highest constitutional court. The majority of the judges ruled that the Federal Environment Agency EPA exceeded its jurisdiction with orders for electricity production with fossil fuels.
The Biden government inherited the case of President Barack Obama, who in the last phase of his term in office tried to make electricity production more climate-friendly with the “Clean Power Plan”. Power plants are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, after transportation. The plan, executed by the Environmental Protection Agency, prescribed reduction targets for the states that forced them to shut down coal-fired power plants in particular.
Six of the nine constitutional judges considered the agency’s orders too far-reaching because the Legislative Congress failed to approve the plan. What’s more, he had made it clear through voting that he did not want a comprehensive reduction target. The judges have now ruled that decisions of major national and political significance require legitimacy by Congress.
Biden: “Terrible decision”
President Biden spoke of a terrible decision: He will not stop using his legal position of power to protect public health and fight the climate crisis. His government will work with states and cities to reduce emissions while promoting new legislative initiatives.
Biden’s previous efforts in Congress had failed because of the Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, among others, who refused to approve a major investment bill to decarbonize the economy. Manchin is a senator from the mining state of West Virginia, one of the successful plaintiffs before the Supreme Court.
The three left-liberal judges had voted against the verdict and accused their conservative colleagues of arrogance: They claimed to know what authority Congress had bestowed on the federal environmental agency.
In the short term, the effects of the decision are small. The “Clean Power Plan” had already been put on hold by temporary injunctions. In addition, climate protectors can claim as a small success that the court did not fundamentally prohibit the regulation of greenhouse gases. The EPA itself had indicated a change of strategy a few months ago: Instead of directly reducing greenhouse gases, air pollution control requirements could indirectly lead to lower emissions.
However, the language of the judgment and its justification also makes it clear that the conservative judges in particular are willing to curtail government and official competence, which they judge to be excessive. This dims the government’s hopes of being able to achieve great things in the future without a parliamentary majority.