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SCOTUS ruling is a step back for battling climate change: What’s next?

In a 6-3 decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, diminishing the agency’s ability to regulate power-plant emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Some see the ruling in West Virginia v. EPA as a setback for efforts to minimize the effects of climate change.

Jason Albritton, director of U.S. climate and energy policy for The Nature Conservancy, feels there are still ways to meet the nation’s 2030 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.

“There’s no one thing that the U.S. can do to solve the climate challenge and to meet our Paris commitment. Executive action is still needed,” Albritton asserted. “It may be harder in light of this decision, but there are still a lot of tools in the federal government — in executive agencies, in the Environmental Protection Agency and others — to deal with climate change.”

Albritton believes action is needed from Congress to address climate change, and for states like New York to continue leading the charge to curb it. Part of the state’s Clean Energy Standard is to get 70% of its power from renewable resources like wind and solar by 2030. The new decision could be a hurdle in making it happen on time.

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Sean Donahue, an attorney who represented several respondents in the case, added the court ruling is unusual, because it even defies what many power companies said they want, which is to move toward renewable energy. Donahue called the energy industry’s show of support for the EPA’s case “remarkable.”

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

“None of the regulated entities, power companies, sought review of the lower court’s decision,” Donahue pointed out. “They, in fact, supported it. They were on the side of the Biden EPA in the case, urging the court to uphold the lower court’s decision, uphold the broader vision of EPA’s authority.”

One such organization offering support to the EPA’s case was the Edison Electric Institute, which represents all investor-owned electric companies in the U.S.