Sierra Club: Dark Money Organizations and Extremists Push Outlandish Agenda and Bizarre Claims in West Virginia v. EPA Amicus Briefs


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Yesterday, a host of extremist groups and dark money-backed organizations submitted amicus briefs in support of the right-wing politicians and coal companies who are petitioning the United States Supreme Court in West Virginia v. EPA. The case before the Supreme Court focuses on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curb climate-disrupting greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s current fleet of coal- and gas-burning power plants, but these new briefs present arguments that go far beyond what is necessary to clarify the Clean Air Act. Instead, they make outlandish claims in a push to not just strip the EPA of its authority to reduce carbon pollution to address the climate crisis, but to drastically redefine federal authority and decimate the government’s ability to look out for public health and safety – and they make no attempt to disguise this agenda. 

Among the most egregious arguments made by these extremists include the following:
  • The Koch-backed dark money group Americans for Prosperity denigrates the experts and public servants at the EPA as “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats” and claims that career employees at government agencies must be dramatically stripped of authority to do their jobs “before it is too late to protect our constitutional Republic and system of representative self-government.”

  • Extreme right-wing lobby organization Americans for Prosperity asks the Supreme Court to throw out nine decades’ worth of legal precedent and return the United States to where it was before the Great Depression, when powerful corporations ran amok and government agencies had little authority to protect public health and safety. 

  • Doctors for Disaster Preparedness – a radical fringe group with a history of rejecting climate science and connected with AIDS denialism – presented a brief that suggests that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to “inconvenience” Americans by passing laws designed to “improve air quality,” labels advocates for federal climate action  “zealots,” and argues that climate change “has not materialized.” The group further claims that the Constitution prohibits federal agencies from issuing any legally binding regulations at all, and says that EPA has been “operating in an extra-constitutional vacuum” for its entire existence. Their brief was written by Andrew Schlafly, an extremist who has previously argued that Einstein’s theory of relativity is a liberal conspiracy, expressed skepticism about the ability of bacteria to evolve through beneficial  mutations, and pushed to rewrite the Bible to remove supposed liberal biases.

  • A brief submitted by the Lignite Coal Council and other coal industry trade organizations spends page after page  arguing about the minute details of the Clean Power Plan, which never took effect and which the Biden Administration has made clear it will not implement. These coal lobbyists further claim the plan would have entailed “a massive transfer of wealth from fossil energy owners to renewable developers,” even though the Trump Administration’s EPA– which sought to repeal the Clean Power Plan–conceded that the rule would have resulted in zero costs.

  • A brief submitted by the Koch-founded Cato Institute argues that the Supreme Court should prohibit government agencies from undertaking “major policy” initiatives, since it would otherwise be “too unsettling” for private corporations to have to comply with federal regulations when presidential administrations tend to switch back and forth between the political parties. 

These extremist arguments come as the Supreme Court decides whether (as the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit previously held) the Trump Administration incorrectly interpreted the Clean Air Act by arbitrarily restricting its own authority to curtail carbon dioxide emissions from dirty fossil fuel-burning power plants. Last January, Sierra Club and its allies successfully persuaded the D.C. Circuit that the Trump EPA’s appallingly weak limits on power sector carbon pollution hinged upon a plain misreading of the Clean Air Act. 

In response, Sierra Club Senior Attorney Andres Restrepo released the following statement:

“These briefs reflect the major stakes of this case and reveal the true agenda of the ideologues who are pushing the Supreme Court to decide issues that extend as far beyond the Clean Air Act. The reckless extremists backing the coal company petitioners and their political allies do not just want the Supreme Court to gut the EPA’s long-standing authority to limit dangerous climate pollution from power plants. Instead, they want to use this case to fabricate new and unprecedented constraints on government agencies’ authority in general to protect the health and safety of the American people from the whims of powerful corporations. 

“If these extremists get their way, it will be much more difficult for public servants to enforce consumer protection laws, protect the public from harmful chemicals and substances, crack down on reckless behavior on Wall Street, safeguard our air and water, monitor the safety of food and pharmaceuticals, and fight the existential threat that is climate change. Such an attack could not happen at a worst time.

“Sierra Club is confident that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling is consistent with the text, history, and structure of the Clean Air Act. We will continue to vigorously defend EPA’s authority as we prepare our briefs before the Supreme Court, and will fight these extremists’ efforts to politicize this case and drag it far afield from the question at hand.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit