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The WV v. EPA court decision and what does it mean for Florida?

published on: July 15, 2022

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided the case of West Virginia v. EPA. This dramatic decision essentially strips the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of any authority to issue rules and standards regulating climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions and certain pollutants produced by coal-based power plants. The original interpretation of the federal Clean Air Act allowed the EPA to issue these air quality safeguards and establish a 3-tier plan to transition from coal energy to renewable energy. The 3-tier plan not only included stationary sources like power plants but also included updating electrical grids. 

The state of West Virginia filed a court case against the EPA in 2015.  West Virginia’s argument was that the Court should not allow the agency to issue rules that can reshape the country’s electricity grids, because it forces states to lower their carbon emissions or decarbonize any sector of the economy. 

Let’s think about this argument for a second: the state of West Virginia, is basically defending a whole industry dedicated to polluting the environment because the EPA standards can control any sector of the economy by requiring it to lower greenhouse gas emissions. How is this an issue you might ask? It’s very simple: the economic interests of fossil fuels and utilities are prioritized instead of the health and wellbeing of its citizens. 

And how is it related to Florida? That’s a great question! Here is how it relates to the Sunshine State: according to the Tampa Bay Times: the Supreme Court ruling will limit how federal regulators can force power plants to move away from fossil fuels and could delay efforts to fight climate change. The decision leaves it to the states to decide what the future of climate change public policy looks like and empowers utilities to forgo any emission standards established by the EPA without being held accountable. 

Our planet is in a climate emergency. Florida is at constant risk due to the use of fossil fuels without regard by utilities. If Florida had strong climate leadership from the Governor and Legislature, they could, in part, make up for the failures of the Supreme Court decision. 

Climate change is a complex problem that demands a thorough and holistic response. Floridians deserve smart laws that will reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and foster a just transition to clean, renewable energy. Simply throwing money at narrowly-focused adaptation strategies is simply not enough.

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