Court leaves Biden’s climate mission fading trails – Greeley Tribune

BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 500 days into his presidency, Joe Biden’s hope of saving the Earth from the most devastating effects of climate change may not be entirely dead.

But it’s not far from it.

A Supreme Court ruling Thursday not only limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollution from power plants, but also suggests the court is poised to block other efforts by Biden and federal agencies to reduce the climate-damaging fumes to limit emissions from oil, gas and coal.

It’s a blow to Biden’s commitment to cutting emissions in the few years scientists say remain to stave off worse and deadlier global warming. And it’s a sign for Democrats at home and allies abroad of the dwindling options Biden remains to reverse President Donald Trump’s legacy of scoffing at the science of climate change. Trump’s three Supreme Court nominations provided half of the yes votes in Thursday’s 6-3 decision.

After the ruling, a veteran Democratic lawmaker admitted he also saw little hope for Congress to introduce meaningful climate legislation. “There is no easy Congressional solution to this mess,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The foreign allies that Biden once spoke of as leading to a global clean energy transformation are wondering if the United States can even lead on its own.

The climate decision “may have broader implications, at least for the European population, that this is a country that A: can’t get things done and B: is going in a really bizarre direction domestically,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe program at the Center for strategic and international studies.

And in a Houston neighborhood entering hurricane season, a man who had spent four decades championing black communities and other communities of color and poorer communities hardest hit by pollution and record heat, cold, floods and… -Climate change storms took the verdict as did many others — saying that saving the climate effort now depends on Biden and his willingness to act and lead.

“This is real,” said Robert Bullard, an academic who became a pioneer of the U.S. environmental justice movement, of the multiplying natural disasters – which scientists say are being affected by warming of the atmosphere — ravaging cities on the vulnerable Gulf of Mexico.

“These communities that were flooded … some of these communities still have blue tarps on their homes,” Bullard said. “So I don’t think the Supreme Court and some of our elected officials are talking about the urgency of where we are in relation to our climate.”

Biden’s EPA has yet to take significant steps, but it has to be done quickly, Eric Schaeffer, a former director of the agency’s civil enforcement, said in a statement. Among them: Accelerate a new rule to limit carbon pollution from power plants, make long-overdue updates to standards on toxic emissions from power plants, and act faster on leaks of climate-damaging methane in natural gas, as the Biden administration has already promised.

Following Thursday’s decision, the EPA pledged to come up with a new proposed carbon rule for power plants by early next year.

Biden has pledged to halve the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade and have a zero-emission energy sector by 2035.

“Our fight against climate change must continue, and it will,” Biden said in a statement after the ruling, which offered no guarantees of success.

His team will “find ways we can continue to protect Americans from pollution and climate change under federal law,” Biden said.

The dismay expressed by many at the Supreme Court lawsuit, among the majority of people in America who say they care deeply about climate change, reflected that this was just the latest setback to Biden’s early promises to reduce emissions.

A divided Congress already handed Biden the worst climate defeat of his tenure as two Democrats, including coal state lawmaker Joe Manchin, joined Senate Republicans in refusing to pass Biden’s Build Back Better package.

Climate portions of the legislation should boost America’s transformation into a country of electric cars, clean industry and energy-efficient buildings. Biden was able to push some smaller parts of his proposal, including electric car chargers.

And this year, in a development as dangerous to Biden’s early climate hopes as the Supreme Court ruling, a global oil and gas supply shortage has sent gas prices plummeting from record highs. It has fueled inflation and voter anger against Biden and potentially other Democrats.

The lack of energy left Biden looking for additional oil and gas. It also remains unclear whether he still has the political capital to press ahead with the US conversion to renewable energies as decisively as he promised as a candidate and in his first months in office.

The ruling left-wing policy pundits, lawmakers and common folk say Biden, Democrats and climate-conscious Republicans still have a few ways left to push through the climate effort.

One is ambitious, smart action by the executive branch—if Biden dares—to push through carefully targeted emissions reduction steps.

A second is the climate action taken by California and the other blue states, which have previously taken action to challenge Trump’s climate rollbacks in court.

A third option is a pitch that Biden and Democrats are increasingly blaming voters for — elect enough Democrats in the midterms to allow Congress to pass legislation preventing rollbacks by conservatives in Congress and the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruling came as Biden enjoyed a successful meeting with NATO allies who have rallied behind the US to oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After Biden’s early proclamations at summits early in his tenure that “America is back!”, the backlash in the Supreme Court to allies underscored how vulnerable the US president remains on the domestic political front, even when it comes to meeting climate commitments goes.

When the ruling was released, Biden envoy John Kerry was flying out after an ocean conference in Portugal and was still working on global and country-specific commitments to reduce emissions. Like Biden, Kerry’s pledges on US climate ambition have become more muted as obstacles mount.

The domestic climate setbacks have helped slow the early global momentum for climate breakthroughs. They have weakened US influence as Kerry urges countries like China to shift away from coal and other harmful fossil fuels – something Biden had promised the US would lead by example.

___

AP contributors Nancy Benac and Jennifer McDermott contributed to this report.

https://www.greeleytribune.com/2022/07/05/court-leaves-dwindling-paths-for-bidens-climate-mission-2/ Court leaves Biden’s climate mission fading trails – Greeley Tribune

James Brien

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