Business Leaders Comment on Supreme Court Hearing of West Virginia v. EPA

Media Release

Washington, DC – The American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) today issued the following statement regarding the case of West Virginia v. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) scheduled to begin on February 28. 

On February 28th, the Supreme Court will begin listening to oral arguments for the case of West Virginia v. EPA. Since the EPA has not issued a revised final rule for the Obama Era Clean Power Plan, the petitioners are asking the court to preempt the agency’s ability to guarantee clean air and clean water.  This is a distraction from the progress made to date and the work that is still needed to transition away from polluting dirty energy to a clean energy future. 

The case of West Virginia v. EPA has a long history and traces its roots to passage of the Clean Air Act by Congress in 1970 which authorized EPA to fight air pollution at the federal level. The Clean Air Act had an enormously quick and positive impact on environmental quality, public health, and American businesses. The Clean Air Act saved thousands of lives every year, all while the U.S. economy has tripled in size. 

Fast forward to 2015 when the Obama administration put forth the Clean Power Plan (“the Plan”) to reduce carbon emissions from coal and gas burning power plants by more than 30 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. Because the federally mandated Clean Air Act required states to come up with their own plans for cleaning up existing pollution sources, coal companies with support from other members of the energy industry plus a few states sued EPA and the Supreme Court in 2016 issued a stay that stopped the Plan from taking effect. At the time, ASBN filed an amicus brief making the arguments that Plan will generate significant economic benefits, climate benefits are even greater than the EPA determined, and that the overall benefits of the Plan are significant and justify the costs. 

Which sets the stage now for the case of West Virginia v. EPA as it comes before the SCOTUS. The original matter has been consolidated with other cases and arrived on the docket via the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

In essence, coal and other fossil fuel companies and the state of WV on their behalf, would like the ability to limit only via an act of the U.S. Congress the right to regulate carbon emissions. By allowing only the U.S. Congress to do so significantly curtails states’ ability to curb emissions through direct regulation. This would render states unable to regulate massive polluters in their jurisdictions, which is unconstitutional and as articulated in our amicus brief bad for business, for health, and the environment. 

“Coal plants and other major contributors to the climate crisis continue to try to evade financially-sound and environmentally necessary regulation that is legal and it is bad for business as well as the health of people and the environment,” said Michael Green, Director of Climate Policy at the American Sustainable Business Network. 

 ”The Supreme Court must protect the EPA’s ability to guarantee clean air and clean water for all US citizens. For far too long, polluting corporations have taken advantage of our environment as a free dumping ground resulting in a pending climate catastrophe and public health crisis. While we have made giant steps forward to tackle this issue, the job is not done. The Court finds itself at a crossroads. We must continue on the path that upholds the EPA’s mandate for a safe and stable environment and not turn back putting this hard work at risk,” said Lara Pearson of Law Office of Lara Pearson Ltd, PBC. 

Businesses of all kinds are concerned about the effects of climate change and convinced that American businesses can and will benefit from a strong government response that reduces harmful emissions of carbon dioxide while at the same time stimulating economic growth and creating jobs. 

The assertion of Petitioners’ amici that the Plan will have a substantial negative effect on employment, consumer electric rates, and local economies amounting to “economic disaster” is simply wrong. It is unsupported by the record and inconsistent with the real-world experience of states and sustainable businesses.

Our views are informed by the work of leading scientists and economists based on peer-reviewed and published research. This research confirms EPA’s conclusion that the net benefits of the Clean Power Plan far outweigh the costs. The Plan will stimulate economic growth and job creation in clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other energy sources and technologies. By contrast, the cost of unchecked climate change that can be quantified economically dwarfs the costs of the Plan—even without considering the enormous unquantifiable costs of climate change. 

U.S. policy should be directed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as soon and as dramatically as possible so that the economic and other risks of climate change are avoided to the greatest extent possible. Avoidance of those risks fully justifies the costs of the Plan. An added benefit is that the Plan will enable states to grow their economies and increase employment in their states by making smart choices about energy sources, technologies, and programs to reduce emissions.