West Virginia v. EPA: It’s Dé·jà Vu All Over Again

Joel B. Stronberg
Age of Awareness
Published in
11 min readAug 6, 2022

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Image courtesy of US Bureau of Land Management

· The decision in West Virginia v. EPA is as important for what it doesn’t say as for what it does.

· Although the Supreme Court left in tack many of EPA’s regulatory powers, it limited its regulatory reach on existing stationary sources of greenhouse gases.

· Without the need to win over “swing” justices, the conser­vat­ive wing of the US Supreme Court has little incent­ive to moder­ate its posi­tions or embrace an incre­mental approach to legal change, much less look for ways to engage with the other side or avoid reach­ing divis­ive ques­tions.

· The decision in West Virginia heightens the importance of state and local governments in combatting climate change.

It was hardly happenstance that the Supreme Court justices waited — until they were packed and halfway out the door — to announce their decisions in cases they knew would fan the flames of the culture war that has gripped the nation since the turn of the third millennium.

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the high court held that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. The decision overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — making abortion a matter for state governments to wrangle with.

The conservative bench also handed down a ruling on gun rights — striking down a New York state law[i] enacted in 1911. The Sullivan Act, named for its lead author, required those wanting to carry a concealed weapon to show a special need to defend themselves. The decision confirms earlier cases respecting a hardly-curtailed Second Amendment right to bear arms.

On a question of religious expression[ii], the conservative crew opined that a high school football coach praying on the 50-yard line at the end of each game does not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause. The majority opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, overturned an 8 to 0 decision in a 1971 case that, until now, has guided the high court’s rulings in cases involving the Constitution’s prohibitions to the government’s establishment of religion[iii].

Then there is the case of West Virginia v. EPA, which threatened to overturn the 2007 landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. The Massachusetts case led to…

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Joel B. Stronberg
Age of Awareness

Stronberg is a thought leader in the climate community with over 40 years of experience covering environmental and sustainability issues as a freelancer.