From our experiences battling polluting industries in West Virginia, we’ve learned that if we don’t continuously speak out for the health and safety of our communities, we’ll never be heard. That’s why we supported the hundreds of activists who spent this past bright and sunny Monday morning in Washington, DC at a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court. The issue? A case that could gut the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect people from climate pollution.
In West Virginia v. EPA, coal executives and right-wing extremists are trying to strip the EPA of its ability to protect the air that we breathe in order to let big businesses keep polluting. The coal companies want to return to the legal framework of the pre-1970’s era, when Americans choked in soot, smog, and toxic pollution. Backed by dark money groups, these companies are trying to protect coal industry profits by blocking climate action.
In West Virginia, we see polluting corporations, right-wing extremists, and local governments dismissing our calls for action day in and day out. While we ask for nothing more than a liveable planet, with clean air and water, they put profits before people as they poison our air and water and destroy our mountains. Consequently, the pollution and destruction disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations: low-income communities and communities of color.
It’s important that you know that the right-wing extremists pushing the attack on our climate and our clean air in court today may be from West Virginia, but they do not represent West Virginians. Instead, they represent the out-of-date industries that need the rules bent to increase their bottom line and avoid fair regulation.
West Virginia’s attorney general Patrick Morrissey is one of the drivers behind this ludicrous Supreme Court case. While Morrissey argues that coal companies should not be regulated to use the best emission-reduction systems based on technology and cost, he feels more than comfortable regulating American’s access to safe health care. But Patrick Morrissey does not speak for us West Virginians or our communities who will feel the most serious consequences from environmental damages.
In West Virginia, we want clean air and clean water. We want protections for the health and safety of our communities. We want climate action – and we need it now. We want a just transition to clean energy that supports family-sustaining, good-paying jobs especially for the people and communities who once relied on coal. And we want our elected officials to listen to the people, not coal executives.
And we’re not alone. The EPA’s responsibility to issue strong safeguards for carbon pollution is not only grounded in the law and science, it is also overwhelmingly popular. Three in four American adults support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and nearly 70 percent support setting strict carbon dioxide limits on existing coal-fired power plants.
These extremists call on the Supreme Court to gut the laws that ensure the government can protect families and communities from the mounting costs and rising dangers of climate change. Coal executives and far-right politicians want to tear down the safeguards that protect the air we breathe so they can pollute without limits.
But here’s the reality we all must embrace: Every American has a right to breathe clean air. We rise up with those who think the Supreme Court should not endanger public health by allowing coal companies to write their own rules. The EPA must be able to do its job in order for us to preserve a liveable climate.
What’s more, these coal companies and state attorneys general are not stopping there – they’re pushing the Court to make a far right power grab aiming to tear down the federal government’s ability to enforce numerous laws through regulatory agencies that protect the public, from ensuring the safety of food and drugs, to protecting workers’ rights, to policing financial fraud, and much more. The Court should reject these efforts and uphold the law Congress passed to protect people, not polluters.
Essentially, this Supreme Court case is about one thing: whether or not our government has the tools it needs to minimize America’s contribution to climate change, reduce the direct impact of emissions on communities where applicable facilities are located, and help American workers shift into a green economy. The Court can either choose to protect the Clean Air Act and our future, or to protect the profits of the coal industry and the ambitions of far-right politicians. We must be on the side of science, future generations, the Clean Air Act, and all Americans.
For more info on this case, read this Sierra magazine overview and this Sierra magazine report from the first day of testimony in West Virginia v. EPA.