Your Green Home: Climate Action Is on the States: For Now | Columnists

“The less we do for climate change now, the more regulation we will have in the future.” — Bill Nye (science guy)

As part of recuperating from my bad mood caused by the federal government’s recent slap in the face against our future, I’ve forced myself to think about the remaining avenues to fight climate change.

These “punches” were the Supreme Court’s decision, in West Virginia v. EPA, to kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s program to phase out coal-fired power plants and replace them with gas-fired models; and the failure, once again, to pass a climate bill in the Senate. These two developments bring us closer to the point of no return for global climate catastrophe.

These events have no doubt been celebrated in some quarters, where it now appears that the unfettered burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal, may continue rapidly. I would advise these people to be careful what they wish for.

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Although the Supreme Court prevents the EPA from enforcing its policy of encouraging the transition from coal to gas and, ultimately, renewable energy generation, it has not prevented the agency from simply regulate coal-fired power plants. Presumably, he can’t because Congress expressly gave the EPA the power to regulate them, and the whole justification for the Court to strike down the “incentive” policy is that Congress didn’t have it. specifically mandated.

So the EPA can simply tell coal plants to clean up their act and, unable to offer them any positive alternatives, let them figure out how to do it – force a much more costly transition in the long run. Preventing this would require a much deeper foray into the legal quagmire of adjudicating Congress’ regulatory intent than the Court likely should have plunged into in the first place.

Meanwhile, the climate battle is shifting to the states, where possible points of attack are plentiful.

For example, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. While the EPA has the authority to regulate vehicle emissions nationally — to set a single standard for the country — it has for decades granted California a waiver to set its own standard above that of the EPA’s baseline of about 38 MPG. (This exception was granted, initially, to combat encroaching smog in the Los Angeles Basin.)

As a result, California has imposed a statewide emissions requirement of 51 MPG for most new vehicles sold after 2025. Other states are free to adopt California’s standards – the EPA requirement is a minimum – and to date, 17 states, including the entire West Coast, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and most of New England, have done so, setting a de facto national standard .

Meanwhile, several of the world’s largest automakers, which for decades have fought federal emissions regulations, in 2020 ignored threats of lawsuits from the Trump administration and signed a binding voluntary agreement with California to meet its standards. They include Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen.

Recently, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo also pledged to work “cooperatively and constructively” with California. Encouragingly, in January 2022 Ford announced it was doubling production of its new all-electric F150 pickup truck to try and meet growing demand.

And California Governor Gavin Newsom recently unveiled an executive order proposing to require 35% of 2026 new car sales in the state to be zero-emission models.

Predictably, the attorneys general of the primarily fossil fuel-producing states that filed the case in West Virginia are now suing to overturn the EPA’s right to grant the “California exception” to its standards. national emissions. But even if they prevail, the EPA can raise its national standards to match California’s.

When there is a dispute, automakers will produce the low-emission vehicles and people will buy them. I smiled when I realized that some ships had already sailed through our eco-house.

Philip S. Wenz is an environmental researcher and writer. Read more articles from his series Your ecological house on its website at firebirdjournal.com.

So the EPA can simply tell coal plants to clean up their act and, unable to offer them any positive alternatives, let them figure out how to do it – force a much more costly transition in the long run. Preventing this would require a much deeper foray into the legal quagmire of adjudicating Congress’ regulatory intent than the Court likely should have plunged into in the first place.

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