Washington Weekly: March 16, 2022
This Week’s Headlines
- SCOTUS & EPA Authority: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Obama-era West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lawsuit over the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Depending on the outcome of the case, the EPA could lose regulatory powers, which would have consequences for both federal and state-level climate action.
- Curbing Car Emissions: The EPA reinstated a waiver that allows states to adopt stronger emissions standards than those at the federal level, reversing the Trump administration’s rollback of authority on climate action. This will allow states like California (and 16 others + Washington, D.C.), who control large vehicle market shares, to help shift industry standards towards cleaner vehicles.
- Corporate Carbon Transparency: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced plans to require all publicly traded companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions in standardized way for the first time ever. Although many companies disclose emissions data, the new requirement would help avoid discrepancies while making the SEC an authority on the enforcement of climate-related disclosures.
A Deeper Dive
One of our mantras here at Michigan LCV is “elections matter,” and there is perhaps no greater example than the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and decisions handed down by its new conservative majority. The outcome of a monumental case in front of the Supreme Court right now – West Virginia vs. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – will likely have huge consequences for our air and the future of the planet.
Originally filed during the Obama administration to try and stop the Obama EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” the plaintiff (West Virginia) alleges that policies that allow the EPA to regulate power-plant emissions are “unconstitutional and could hurt the energy sector,” and challenges the agency’s authority to do so without Congressional approval. The fact that the Supreme Court even took up this case is alarming – the Court previously suspended the Clean Power Plan before it could be implemented.
The EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions is crucial in the fight against climate change. The Supreme Court already affirmed the authority in the landmark 2007 Massachusetts vs. EPA decision, which ruled that the EPA had a responsibility to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Limiting the scope of such authority in a West Virginia vs. EPA decision would essentially overturn established legal precedent and have ramifications for climate action in Michigan and across the country.
If the Supreme Court makes the disastrous decision to severely restrict EPA’s ability to protect our air and address climate emissions, it makes the role of states all the more important. With federal climate and clean energy provisions stalled in Congress, it is critical for Governor Whitmer to finalize and implement the MI Healthy Climate Plan, which aims to achieve statewide carbon neutrality by 2050.
While climate action in the Michigan legislature is unlikely at the moment due to a lack of a pro-environment majority – and worst case scenario in West Virginia vs. EPA could limit Michigan’s ability to hit our climate goals – this situation illustrates the urgent need to vote in elections and elect pro-climate action candidates who will tackle the challenges we face.
Ultimately, the case will be decided by the conservative majority that now presides over the nation’s High Court. It is alarming to think about the potential consequences considering how certain justices have ruled on other recent cases. Earlier this week, the Court rejected Donald Trump’s request to block the House select committee from accessing White House records related to the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. Justice Clarence Thomas was the only Justice that would have granted Trump’s request. Afterward it was revealed that Thomas’ wife, Ginnie Thomas, participated in the events of January 6th, presenting a clear conflict of interest. If Supreme Court justices are not ruling based on the law of the land, the West Virginia vs. EPA case and others could lead to unfortunate outcomes for our climate and our democracy, and further politicize the courts.
President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, would be an integral addition to the Court. If confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court and will be an influential Justice on the Court for years to come. The League of Conservation Voters and other pro-environment and pro-democracy groups have been vocal supporters of Judge Jackson’s nomination, pointing to the “invaluable, long overdue perspective as both the first Black woman and the first public defender” that she would bring to the Court.
It’s clear that the Supreme Court is a center of power with decisions that impact our environment and daily lives – hopefully cases like West Virginia vs. EPA will inspire people to get engaged in the civic and political process at all levels.
The Michigan LCV Difference
New congressional districts are coming into play this November. A lot has changed since the 2020 election cycle, but do not fret — MLCV and LCV are here to break it down.
The League of Conservation Voters has issued several endorsements in the state of Michigan. LCV seeks to endorse candidates who are environmental champions, will address the climate crisis in an equitable way, and protect the fundamental pillars of our democracy. So far this cycle LCV has endorsed incumbent Representative’s Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Elissa Slotkin (MI-07), Dan Kildee (MI-08), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-12). Additionally LCV has endorsed Hillary Scholten in Michigan’s Third congressional district against incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer.
You may have noticed that some familiar names are missing from this list. Representative Brenda Lawrence, announced her retirement earlier this year and is not seeking reelection. Representative’s Andy Levin and Haley Stevens, who have both previously received LCV’s endorsement, are running against each other in a primary election. LCV has not endorsed in that race. LCV has not finished their endorsements and will continue to look at race dynamics in Michigan as election season plays out.
Notably some incumbents are running in new areas. Representative Debbie Dingell has relocated from Dearborn to Ann Arbor to run in the new Michigan Sixth district. Representative Rashida Tlaib will be running in the new Michigan Twelve which encompasses Dearborn and other western Wayne County communities. Representative Elissa Slotkin is running in the Lansing-centric district 7, despite her hometown of Holly being drawn into a different district. Representative Dan Kildee maintains much of his former district in Genesee county but adds communities like Midland. You can see all of the new districts and compare them to the old ones here.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!