You might, before doing anything else, read this and learn about the way in which the courts have been packed to protect the corporate polluters…

Judicial

JUDICIAL

The Judicial Branch of the federal government is responsible for interpreting and reviewing the country’s laws. The Supreme Court is the most powerful body of the Judicial Branch. About 8,000 cases are filed with the Supreme Court each year, but only about 80 are chosen to be heard and decided by the Court. The Supreme Court is the only court where the Justices make the decision whether or not to hear a case. Most often, a case makes it to the Supreme Court after the plaintiffs involved appeal the ruling of one of the US Courts of Appeal.

There are numerous cases weaving their way through the courts. Exxon Mobil, for example, is facing a wave of lawsuits driven in large part by revelations which began surfacing in 2015.  These revelations indicated that the climate crisis was not the result of blind error, or even willful ignorance, but rather calculated abuses of power.  Exxon had conducted scientific studies that showed the warming effect of carbon emissions and predicted the dire consequences of climate change, before spending millions on misinformation to derail regulation and solidify international dependence on fossil fuels. Massachusetts and New York have both sued Exxon for fraud.

Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco, New York City, Richmond and others have filed suits for damages from climate change against companies like Chevron, BP, Shell, and ConocoPhillips in addition to Exxon. Several high-profile cases challenging the expansion of oil pipelines are also being litigated.

And, then there is the landmark case of Juliana v. US, brought by 21 young people in 2015, which argues that the federal government’s duty to serve as a trustee of resources extends to the atmosphere, and that it had thus failed in that constitutional duty. A full and fascinating history of this litigation can be found here.

Just as many of these cases are winding their way through the courts, the makeup of the Supreme Court has changed dramatically. Following the death of renowned Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, Trump filled her seat with Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett’s appointment promised to shift the court to the far right for decades to come. We saw early results already in 2022, when the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA in the case of West Virginia vs the Environmental Protection Agency.

What Is the Judicial Branch of the U.S. Government? | History

2023 could be a blockbuster year for more climate issues in the courtroom, most crucially as the Supreme Court decides where and when to weigh in.

Some significant information:

  • Five new petitions were filed in 2022 urging the Supreme Court to take another look at oil company pleas for federal jurisdiction over climate misinformation cases brought by multiple states and municipalities.
  • In March, 2023, the Biden administration filed a brief in support of local governments in Colorado arguing that the Supreme Court should not step into that state dispute. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, all climate cases, which threaten to put fossil fuel companies on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars for contributing to climate change, would be on pause until that decision comes down.
  • In response, on April 5, in a filing with the Supreme Court, attorneys for Exxon Mobil Corp. and Suncor Energy Inc. sharply criticized the Biden administration for siding with local governments in their lawsuits against oil majors.
  • The Court has still, as of April 10, not announced what cases, if any, it would pick up.

Meanwhile, sixteen young people from Montana could be the first youth plaintiffs to see their constitutional climate case go to trial in June, 2023. And, as of April 7, a state judge in Hawaii said that a group of young people can pursue their lawsuit accusing the state of violating their right to a healthy climate by encouraging continued use of fossil fuels, rejecting the state’s bid to dismiss the suit.

The national climate case, Juliana v. U.S. also represented by Our Children’s Trust, is still awaiting word on whether their amended complaint can proceed.

CURRENT NEWS

Biden rule, heeding Supreme Court, could strip over half of U.S wetlands’ protections

By Allyson Chiu 08/29/23
The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that it has revised a key rule to comply with a sweeping Supreme Court ruling from this year, which could strip federal protections from up to 63 percent of…
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Supreme Court refuses to block ban on Okla. city fines for Native Americans

By Ann E. Marimow 08/04/23
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to block a lower court ruling that would revoke the authority of Oklahoma officials to enforce certain laws against Native Americans amid legal confusion over the justices’ 2020 declaration…
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Students give top law firms an F on climate

By Lesley Clark 08/01/23
Top U.S. lawyers are ramping up their work for the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report by climate-conscious law students that singles out firms representing the contentious Mountain Valley pipeline.
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Supreme Court clears the way for pipeline construction favored by Manchin

By Robert Barnes and Rachel Weiner 07/27/23
The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way to complete a controversial Mid-Atlantic natural gas pipeline, agreeing that Congress greenlighted the project as part of a behind-the-scenes deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
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Mountain Valley pipeline turns to Supreme Court

By Niina H. Farah 07/19/23
The Supreme Court may soon step into a legal brawl over whether Congress violated the Constitution when it passed a law ensuring completion of the Mountain Valley pipeline — a fight that could have important…
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Sackett fallout leaves wetlands’ fate to states

By E.A. Crunden 06/28/23
A landmark Supreme Court decision dealing a blow to EPA’s authority is set to sharply redirect power to the state and local levels, prompting a massive shift in wetlands oversight.
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In a Montana Courtroom, Debate Over Whether States Can Make a Difference on Climate Change, and if They Have a Responsibility to Try

By Richard Forbes 06/28/23
At the close of the final day of their lawsuit against Montana for its failure to rein in development of fossil fuels in the state and slow climate change, all but one of the 16…
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What’s next for the court cases challenging Mountain Valley Pipeline?

By Charlie Paullin 06/09/23
Although the Mountain Valley Pipeline won fast-tracked approval from Congress last week, environmental groups are still exploring possible legal challenges to prevent it from moving forward. President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the Fiscal Responsibility…
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Supreme Court won’t review ruling barring offshore fracking in California

By Zack Budryk 06/05/23
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined a request by the oil industry to review a lower court ruling barring fracking off California’s shore. In 2014, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) sued to halt offshore…
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‘Devastating’ Supreme Court Decision Leaves Wetlands Unprotected

By Andy McGlashen 05/26/23
The majority of the nation’s wetlands where many birds raise their young, congregate in winter, and rest during migration—and which filter out pollutants and buffer communities from flooding and storm surges—lost legal protections on Thursday…
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Montana youth climate trial to move forward next month with narrowed scope

By Amy Beth Hanson 05/26/23
The first youth climate change lawsuit in the U.S. to reach trial will take place next month, though the challenge filed against Montana has been narrowed after a judge dismissed a claim against a state…
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Washington state hits the brakes on landmark gas ban

By David Iaconangelo 05/25/23
The delay raises questions about whether additional cities will stand by their efforts to wind down natural gas use in buildings after a key federal court ruling.
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KEY RESOURCES

Net Zero Emissions Legislation Around the World: 2022 Update

10/01/22
The Law Library of Congress 1 Net Zero Emissions Legislation Around the World: 2022 Update Prepared by the Staff of the Global Legal Research Directorate This table shows the 57 jurisdictions around the world that…

The Lawfarm Climatechange scorecard

01/27/21
Climate Scores For Vault 100 Law Firms 1

U.S. Climate Change Litigation

08/20/20
Cases in the U.S. database are organized by type of claim and may be filtered by the principal laws they address, their filing years, and their jurisdictions. The database is also searchable by keyword. In…

Mapped: Climate change laws around the world

03/05/20
There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997, according to the most comprehensive database of relevant policy and legislation.

Congress and Climate Change

03/05/20
Federal efforts to address climate change are undertaken under laws, and with funding, approved by Congress. Like other complex economy-wide challenges, climate change touches on a wide array of interests. The stakes vary from sector…

Our Focus: Climate Change

03/05/20
Climate change is not a new challenge for CLF. We’ve been working to address its root causes for decades and have played a part in critical milestones to curb its progress. We helped design the…

Environmental Law 101: Climate Change

03/05/20
A short, but thorough, introduction from a leading environmental law think tank on climate change and what is being done to combat it through legal action and policy.

Federal Action on Climate

03/05/20
Given the far-reaching nature of the climate challenge, effective federal policy is needed to achieve deep, long-term reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and to help strengthen climate resilience across the U.S. economy. Even in…

MORE NEWS

Supreme Court weakens EPA power to enforce Clean Water Act

By Robert Barnes and Others   05/25/23  
The Supreme Court on Thursday cut back the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the nation’s wetlands, another setback for the agency’s authority to combat air and water pollution.
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Hoboken Lodges First State-Level Racketeering Charge in Big Oil Climate Lawsuit

By Dana Drugmand   05/25/23  
Suing under an organized crime statute, the New Jersey city says major oil and gas companies and their chief lobbying group have “conspired to deceive the world for decades.”
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Supreme Court Decision Threatens Waterways that Birds (and People) Need

By National Audubon Society   05/25/23  
The Court’s ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency removes crucial protections for wetlands, limiting the Clean Water Act.
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California bill would hit oil companies with $1 million penalty for health impacts

By Aaron Cantú   05/18/23  
Monic Uriarte was thrilled to get approved for an affordable apartment in Los Angeles’ University Park, close to USC. But soon after she and her family moved there in 2004, they started experiencing headaches and…
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Federal Agency Lawfully Approved $39 Billion Alaska LNG Project

By Samantha Hawkins   05/16/23  
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lawfully authorized a liquefied natural gas project in Alaska, the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday—denying environmental groups’ petition to review the decision.
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Clarence Thomas Reversed Position After Gifts And Family Payments

By Julia Rock and Andrew Perez   05/09/23  
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas changed his position on one of America’s most significant regulatory doctrines after his wife reportedly accepted secret payments from a shadowy conservative network pushing for the change. Thomas’ shift also…
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How will court’s rebuke of Berkeley’s natural-gas ban affect the national movement it began?

By Katie Lauer   04/30/23  
When Berkeley became the first U.S. city to ban construction of new natural gas lines in 2019, it pioneered an approach to reducing carbon emissions and pollutants that has since spread around the Bay Area…
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SCOTUS Says No to Exxon, Now the Corporate Free Speech Fight Begins

04/29/23  
On Monday this week the Supreme Court finally weighed in on whether it would take up the jurisdictional argument that oil companies are making in multiple climate liability suits. The companies have been arguing for…
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A seismic win went almost unnoticed amidst the Tuckerstrom

By Bill Mckibben   04/25/23  
All eyes were on former FoxNews angerman Tucker Carlson yesterday, as his owners pushed him from the nest. They offered the tersest of statements and no explanation, but coming on the heels of the giant…
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Supreme Court Refuses to Give Big Oil a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

By Jason Mark   04/25/23  
The US Supreme Court on Monday delivered a legal setback to some of the world’s biggest oil companies as the justices denied the oil corporations’ pleas to intervene in state and local lawsuits seeking accountability…
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US States and Communities are Suing the Fossil Fuel Industry: Six Things You Need to Know

By L. Delta Merner   04/24/23  
In an important win for climate accountability in the United States, the US Supreme Court decided that lawsuits filed in Colorado, Maryland, California, Hawai’i, and Rhode Island against fossil fuel companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell,…
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US Supreme Court ruling clears RI to pursue climate-change case against oil, gas companies

By Alex Kuffner   04/24/23  
Rhode Island’s landmark climate-change lawsuit was bolstered Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a petition from some of the largest fossil-fuel companies in the world to consider whether the case and others like it…
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Lawsuit Challenges FEMA Funding to Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Fossil Fuel-Dependent Electric Grid

04/11/23  
Conservation and community groups sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security today over their plans to rebuild Puerto Rico’s centralized electric grid back to the fossil fuel status quo instead…
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A Maine jury will decide the fate of the embattled CMP transmission line

By Sabrina Shankman   04/07/23  
After years of planning, false starts, and a bitterly fought campaign to kill it, the fate of one of Massachusetts’ most important clean energy projects is set to be decided in a Portland, Maine, courtroom…
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The Real Reason Big Oil Wants Climate Cases at the Supreme Court

04/07/23  
For more than five years now, fossil fuel companies have been arguing that the more than two dozen climate liability cases filed against them by counties, cities and states across the country belong in federal…
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Big Oil clashes with Biden in SCOTUS climate brawl

By Lesley Clark   04/06/23  
The fossil fuel industry rebuked the Biden administration on Wednesday for siding with local governments in their lawsuits against oil majors, calling the federal government's position "shot through with flaws" and driven by “a desire…
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Climate cover-up? Federal appeals court rules Minnesota’s lawsuit can proceed

By News Staff   03/24/23  
Minnesota’s lawsuit alleges ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute, and Koch Industries systematically deceived and defrauded Minnesotans about the true causes and costs of climate change.
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BREAKING: DOJ throws support behind communities suing Big Oil

03/17/23  
Huge news for climate accountability: After two years of silence, the Department of Justice is finally supporting communities seeking to put Big Oil companies on trial for their climate deception and the damages they have…
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Toxic air, explosions: Inside the bitter battle between Texas residents and Exxon

By Anna Phillips   03/16/23  
When Shirley Williams chose the brick ranch house in a quiet subdivision east of Houston 25 years ago, she picked it for the lush, peaceful backyard. She pictured her husband, Arthur, puttering around the garden,…
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Judge upholds EPA anti-pollution rule against power companies’ challenge

By Elliot Mincberg   03/06/23  
Judge Michelle Childs, nominated by President Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, wrote a unanimous decision that rejected a challenge by a group of power companies to EPA rules requiring…
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Big Oil’s false advertising is not free speech

By Emily Sanders   01/24/23  
“Big Oil peddled the big lie,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said last week following the release of a new study showing Exxon’s acute scientific understanding of climate change preceded its public denial. Facing ever-mounting…
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Big oil is behind conspiracy to deceive public

By Nina Lakhani   12/20/22  
Lawyer in a civil lawsuit launched by towns in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico describes why it is using laws used to target mob bossesThe same racketeering legislation used to bring down mob bosses, motorcycle gangs, football…
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Protecting Communities from Climate Change Is Astronomically Expensive

By Karen Savage and Others   10/24/22  
A proposed series of sea barriers to protect New York’s harbor—which includes parts of New Jersey— from future storm surges? $52 billion. Reducing risk of future damage to Rhode Island’s coast? More than $254 million.…
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Biden ‘social cost of carbon’ climate risk measure upheld by U.S. appeals court

By Clark Mindock   10/21/22  
A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the "social cost of carbon" calculation used by President Joe Biden's administration, which sharply boosts the price tag policy makers will put on the environmental impact of greenhouse…
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New Jersey Joins Other States in Suing Fossil Fuel Industry, Claiming Links to Climate Change

By Jon Hurdle   10/18/22  
New Jersey became the latest U.S. state to sue the fossil fuel industry over climate change, alleging it knew for decades that emissions from its products contributed to global warming, but lied to protect its…
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A Supreme Court Case Over Pork Could Imperil U.S. Climate Progress

By Alejandro De La Garza   10/12/22  
he U.S. Supreme Court heard a case this week that could have huge implications for all sorts of state climate regulations, from clean electricity mandates to vehicle fuel standards. But the arguments in court on…
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Leonard Leo Pushed the Courts Right. Now He’s Aiming at American Society.

By Kenneth P. Vogel   10/12/22  
Millions of dollars in television advertisements blasting schools for teaching critical race theory and assailing corporations like BlackRock, Uber and American Airlines for catering to “woke politicians.” A lawsuit pending before the Supreme Court to…
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Supreme Court to hear high-stakes challenge to Clean Water Act

By Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano   09/30/22  
Monday marks the first day of the Supreme Court's new term, and the justices are wasting no time in weighing another challenge to one of the nation's bedrock environmental laws.
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State lawmakers rated on environmental issues. Here are the rankings.

By Marie J. French   09/20/22  
Scores for the Assembly Democratic conference rose and Senate Democrats dropped slightly from last year in the New York League of Conservation Voters annual scorecard for state lawmakers.
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US Supreme Court’s Gorsuch allows enforcement of $155 million award against Sunoco

By Nate Raymond   09/08/22  
US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on Thursday rejected Sunoco LP’s request to block efforts to enforce a $155 million judgment against the fuel retailer in a lawsuit accusing it of failing to pay interest…
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Federal judge finds Enbridge trespassed on Bad River lands, but stops short of shutting down Line 5

By Danielle Kaeding   09/08/22  
A federal judge has ruled Canadian energy firm Enbridge Inc. trespassed on Bad River tribal lands and profited at the tribe’s expense but stopped short of shutting down an oil and gas pipeline across the…
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$14 million air pollution fine for Exxon’s Baytown refinery stands

By Clark Mindock   08/30/22  
ExxonMobil Corp must pay a $14.25 million fine over air pollution at its Baytown, Texas crude oil refinery, a federal appeals court affirmed Tuesday. It is the largest penalty ever assessed in a citizen enforcement…
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Appeals court rules two Trump administration Gulf lease sales unlawful

By Zack Budryk   08/30/22  
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled two Trump-era Interior Department oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico were unlawful.In the ruling, Judge Gregory C. Katsas of the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals found the…
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Opinion: Congress tries to protect the planet from an overreaching court

By E.J. Dionne   08/28/22  
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority put itself front and center in American politics with its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the understandable passion around abortion rights should not obscure another profoundly consequential political…
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The EPA Just Quietly Got Stronger

By Robinson Meyer   08/24/22  
All carrots, no sticks. That is the story of the Inflation Reduction Act. Since the law was unveiled last month, savvy commentators have noted that its policies consist almost entirely of “carrots,” incentives meant to…
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Court strikes down ruling that blocked Biden’s oil drilling pause

By Dino Grandoni and Others   08/17/22  
A federal appellate judge struck down a lower court’s decision that had stopped the Biden administration from pausing the auction of oil and gas drilling rights in federal lands and water, a key campaign pledge…
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Federal court cites human health, climate costs in rejecting massive Wyoming, Montana coal mining plan

08/04/22  
A federal judge late yesterday struck down two U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource management plans that failed to address the public health consequences of allowing massive amounts of coal, oil, and gas production…
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After It Narrowed the EPA’s Authority, Talks of Expanding the Supreme Court Garner New Support

By Samantha Hurley   07/28/22  
The late afternoon sun washed over the United States Supreme Court building as a group of protesters hauled a 15-foot tall prop, modeled after the United States Constitution, through the nearby streets. Instead of “We…
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Supreme Court muzzles EPA on climate

By Pamela King   07/18/22  
Environmental lawyers say the Supreme Court sent a clear message in its landmark ruling in West Virginia v. EPA: If a federal agency wants to craft robust climate regulations, it better not crow about them.…
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The Supreme Court’s EPA ruling was the beginning of something bigger

By Maxine Joselow   07/06/22  
When the Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency's power to combat climate change last week, Republican attorneys general and conservative legal activists cheered the ruling.
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Supreme Court ruling gives leverage to businesses

By Andrew Ross Sorkin   07/01/22  
The Supreme Court yesterday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate power plant emissions, dealing a significant blow to the Biden administration’s climate change agenda. The ruling is the product of a longstanding campaign…
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Be the Backlash!

By Bill McKibben   07/01/22  
A reasonable reaction to the week’s Supreme Court rulings, which culminated in Thursday’s gutting of the Clean Air Act, would be: we are so screwed.
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Supreme Court Limits Epa In Curbing Power Plant Emissions

By Mark Sherman   07/01/22  
In a blow to the fight against climate change, the Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. By a…
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Supreme Court sharply limits regulation of carbon emissions

By Paul Blumenthal and Alexander C. Kaufman   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court just made it much harder for the U.S. government to respond to climate change in a 6-3 decision in the case of West Virginia v. EPA.
Read more

US Supreme Court hobbles government power to limit harmful emissions

By Oliver Milman   06/30/22  
Court sides with Republican states as ruling represents landmark moment in rightwing effort to dismantle ‘regulatory state’.
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Supreme Court Curbs EPA’s Power To Regulate Emissions And Fight Climate Change

By Alison Durkee   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court has made it more challenging for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases and fight climate change, as justices ruled Thursday in favor of Republican-led states and coal companies that asked…
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The most profound effect of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency may ultimately be cultural

By David Wallace-Wells   06/30/22  
Many of the headlines about the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday have suggested an existential setback: a major blow to American decarbonization and global climate ambition. But…
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Supreme Court limits EPA’s authority to regulate power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions

By Melissa Quinn, Li Cohen   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, delivering a significant blow to the Biden administration's efforts to fight climate change.
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Supreme Court Puts Brakes on EPA in Far-Reaching Decision

By Jan Wolfe and Timothy Puko   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal regulators exceeded their authority in seeking to limit emissions from coal plants in a decision that sharply curtails the executive branch’s authority to make policy actions on a…
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Supreme Court Sharply Limits Regulation Of Carbon Emissions

By Paul Blumenthal and Alexander C. Kaufman   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court just made it much harder for the U.S. government to respond to climate change in a 6-3 decision in the case of West Virginia v. EPA. The Thursday decision, written by Chief…
Read more