What does the Supreme Court’s EPA decision mean for the River Parishes?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2022

 

A series of controversial rulings by the Supreme Court late last month call into question the regulatory authority of the federal government. The overturning of Roe v. Wade garnered the most attention, but it wasn’t the only recent Supreme Court decision that impacts those who live and work in the River Parishes.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in West Virginia v. EPA. With conservatives leading a 6-3 vote, the court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act.

When Barack Obama was president, a climate bill that became known as the Clean Power Plan introduced the idea of ordering companies to generate less electricity from sources such as coal in favor of using “cleaner” natural gas and renewable resources.

Last week’s Supreme Court decision affirmed that the EPA does not have authority to force industries to shift from once source of power to another as a means of encouraging emissions reduction. While this decision does not prevent the EPA from regulating emissions, it removes a tool that the EPA considers “the best system of emissions reductions.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can still require power plants to use the best available technologies lower emissions.

The petrochemical companies that line the Mississippi River impact every facet of life in the River Parishes, and the implications of living with industry have created a strong divide between members of our community. Every day, there seems to be a new battle weighing the potential for economic growth with perceived risks to health, safety and culture.

I have seen a commitment from local companies to reduce emissions year-by-year. The question is whether these measures are enough to adequately protect the community, and for this reason I believe regulation, transparency and accountability are key.

RISE St. James, one of the many environmental activist groups active in our region, responded to the West Virginia v. EPA over the Fourth of July holiday.

“We are truly dismayed by last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that the EPA does not have the authority to set limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants.  This decision comes among a series of harmful Supreme Court rulings and power plays at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society,” RISE St. James released in a statement.

“Unfortunately, this setback also comes when we were just starting to get more confidence in the EPA and its recent efforts to protect historically disadvantaged communities.  We are resolute – this too shall pass.”

Others, including U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) agree with the Supreme Court that the EPA had overstepped its boundaries when imposing regulations on power plants.

“Today’s decision recognizes that the Obama administration went far beyond its reach in its attempts to limit American energy production – a trend the Biden administration has continued,” said Dr. Cassidy. “The Supreme Court made the right choice putting the ball in Congress’ court. We must address the connection between U.S. energy development, affordability and lowering global emissions.”

It may be too early to see the extent of how this decision will affect us in the River Parishes. From our local leaders and business community, I hope to see a continued focus on shifting to cleaner energy resources and making environmentally-conscious decisions, while balancing economic stability and affordability of products. There is potential for our region to emerge as a leader of the energy transition, and I think that’s something our industries can commit to even with less EPA oversight.

 

Brooke R. Cantrelle is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at brooke.robichaux@lobservateur.com.