‘We Have to Be Creative.’ How the Biden Administration Is Responding to the SCOTUS Climate Setback

You might expect that Gina McCarthy, President Joe Biden’s national climate advisor, would be frustrated this week.

The Supreme Court dealt a significant blow on Thursday to what was once the most promising avenue for tackling climate change, curtailing the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate emissions from the power sector. McCarthy has been at the center of climate policy efforts for the last decade, and as the head of the Obama Administration’s EPA, she crafted the agency rule at issue in the Court’s ruling.

Yet in conversation in the days leading up to the ruling, McCarthy was surprisingly optimistic—not that the ruling would go the Administration’s way, but rather that the White House could chart a path to slash emissions even if it didn’t. “We’ve set very solid goals, we’re making significant progress on the transition to clean energy,” she told TIME on June 28. “And that is not going to live and die by the Supreme Court’s decision.”
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To meet the White House’s goals, she said, the Administration needs to get “creative” and find novel ways to galvanize the energy transition. That includes inventive use of regulations at places like EPA, as well as the Administration’s engagement with the private sector, use of its own purchasing power, and use of the Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of domestic clean energy technology, she says. “It can’t just be about using regulations or using Congress to fix this; to actually continue accelerating, we have to be creative,” she said, one of at least ten times she used the word creative in the course of the conversation.

It is certainly true that EPA power plant regulations are far from the only—or even the most important—tool in the climate policy toolkit in 2022. But in order to get the U.S. anywhere near the Administration’s goal of slashing emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030, the creativity that McCarthy speaks about needs to be matched with speed and focus. There’s a lot to do and little time—not to mention many distractions.

‘It was an entirely different conversation’

One of the reasons McCarthy is hopeful, she says, is the government now has a wider range of options for how to address climate change than when she first engaged in the fight.

After failing to pass climate legislation in his first term, President Barack Obama turned to the EPA to pass new regulations …read more

Source:: Time – Politics

      

What the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the ‘Clean Air Act’ Means for Carbon Emissions

On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. The outcome of the case is a big deal for tackling climate change going forward, particularly because the Biden Administration had set ambitious goals for reducing emissions, including reaching 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.

In a 6-3 vote, the conservative-majority court sided in favor of the plaintiffs who brought the West Virginia v. EPA case some seven years ago—primarily a group of Republican state attorneys general who believed that the federal agency was overstepping its authority after it issued a plan to curb power plant emissions. During those years, however, as case was moved through the justice system—rendering the EPA’s plan unenforceable—the power sector’s emissions declined anyway. The question now is whether emissions will continue to fall given that the energy industry has certainty that the federal government can’t impose future regulations.
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The case has a convoluted history, but stems from a policy that former President Barack Obama unveiled back in 2015. Known as the Clean Power Plan, its goal was to reduce power sector emissions from 2005 levels by about a third by 2030. Before the policy could have its day in court, however, a new administration moved in, and, in 2019, then-President Donald Trump repealed the Clean Power Plan entirely. (Even though the policy never went into effect, the case against it continued.) Two years later, Trump issued his own EPA policy directed only at coal-fired plants. More lawsuits were brought against that policy, this time from a coalition of predominantly Democratic states. A federal court struck it down, clearing the way for incoming President Joe Biden, who made clear that he would not revive the Clean Power Plan, and would instead craft a fresh plan of his own.

A version of this story first appeared in the Climate is Everything newsletter. To sign up, click here.

As all that legal back-and-forth was dragging on, the power sector was gradually reducing emissions due to its shift from coal to natural gas and renewable sources. In 2021, carbon dioxide emissions were down 19% from 2015, the year that the Clean Power Plan was introduced, and were down 36% from their 2007 peak. Indeed, in part because of investor pressures and state-level environmental policies, the U.S. electric sector has now …read more

Source:: Time – Politics

      

In a Win for Biden, Supreme Court Says He Can End the ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Biden Administration has the authority to end the controversial Trump-era immigration policy known as “Remain in Mexico,” in a win for Joe Biden and his Administration’s ability to determine its own immigration strategy.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court narrowly affirmed the Biden Administration’s authority to oversee U.S.-Mexico border procedure, and allows it to continue its efforts to end “Remain in Mexico”—officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)—the Trump-era policy of returning migrants who have made a claim for asylum to Mexico while their case is adjudicated.
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Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the court’s three liberals. Justice Amy Coney Barrett dissented, joined in part by the court’s other conservatives.

In the majority opinion, Roberts said the Administration’s actions to end the policy did not violate the law in the way red states who challenged the move had argued, potentially clearing the way for Biden to stop enrolling migrants in the program. But Roberts noted the Administration’s actions could be challenged on other grounds—specifically pointing to one section of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)—and sent the decision back to the lower courts for further proceedings on separate legal questions.

The decision comes just four days after an alleged people smuggling incident in a tractor trailer caused the deaths of 53 migrants in San Antonio, Texas. Some immigration experts and advocates blame strict policies at the U.S.-Mexico border like MPP for incentivizing dangerous unauthorized border crossings orchestrated by people smugglers. “The Supreme Court’s decision paves the way for the Biden Administration to adopt a more orderly immigration process at the border,” says David Bier, the associate director of immigration policy at the libertarian Cato Institute. “‘Remain in Mexico’ was a failure. It dealt with asylum seekers so inhumanely that rather than ‘remaining in Mexico,’ they repeatedly crossed the border illegally.”

The Biden Administration has been attempting to end MPP since June 2021, but conservative states challenged the move and argued the executive branch did not have the authority to end the program the way that it did. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the states’ favor in January, ruling that the Administration was bound to either detain asylum seekers in the U.S. or have them wait in Mexico—meaning the policy would have to stay …read more

Source:: Time – Politics