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How parents can fight back against the Supreme Court’s attack on our kids

If our elected leaders don’t now use their power to stop pollution, they are endorsing a devastating future for our families and our children.

FFF Team / 

The fox is guarding the henhouse. The henhouse is filled with foxes. They’ve eaten the farmer. 

The Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia vs. EPA is appalling and immoral. It undermines the health, safety, and future of every one of us — especially our kids — by effectively stripping EPA’s power to protect us from carbon pollution.

This court was picked by polluters. And the court picked polluters over our families, the public interest, or the rule of law. 

This decision throws down the gauntlet to elected officials at every level in this country: If our elected leaders don’t now use their power to stop pollution, they are endorsing a devastating future for our families and our children. 

Parents are worried and outraged. We want to know what this means for our families. Below are a few key takeaways of what happened, and what we can do about it.

But the key is this: In this moment, every parent who is concerned about their children’s future should demand the strongest possible action from our elected leaders.

This is a ruling against the will of the people

The Supreme Court has gone against the large majority in this country who want the government to protect us from fossil fuel companies’ carbon pollution. 

The 19 state leaders who sued to block the EPA’s action went against their constituents, too. In every one of those states, a large majority (62% or more) support regulating CO2 as a pollutant. In 16 of those states by 2/3rds majorities or greater

Public opinion in each of the 19 states that sued the EPA. Data: YPCCC
The 19 elected leaders who sued the EPA. Click to expand the image.

POLLUTER INFLUENCE IS AT UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS

Polluters have spent decades to build the government and the laws that they want, and this decision is a culmination of that effort. 

A majority on the court went to great lengths to allow fossil fuel polluters to trample on our families’ health and future for a few extra years, including hearing a case challenging a non-existent rule.

It’s an immoral power grab. But it’s not surprising because the fix was in. Everyone was on Team Polluter. The New York Times covered these connections in detail:

West Virginia v. E.P.A., No. 20–1530 on the court docket, is also notable for the tangle of connections between the plaintiffs and the Supreme Court justices who will decide their case. The Republican plaintiffs share many of the same donors behind efforts to nominate and confirm five of the Republicans on the bench — John G. Roberts, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. 

This is exactly why we must now lean on elected leaders to stand up and protect our families. 

PROTECTING FAMILIES FROM POLLUTION USED TO BE BIPARTISAN COMMON-SENSE 

The Clean Air Act is the result of six congressional bills over five decades, signed by presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, and H. W. Bush. 

President Nixon signed the modern Clean Air Act in 1970. The year before, President Johnson urged congress to strengthen the bill “to investigate potential air pollution problems before pollution happens, rather than having to wait until the damage occurs.” He specifically called out the threat of carbon pollution. In 1969.

“This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”

– President Lyndon Johnson, 1969

After the passage of the Clean Air Act, President Nixon reorganized the government to create the EPA, declaring:

“arresting environmental deterioration is of great importance to the quality of life in our country and the world.”

– President Richard Nixon, 1970

The Clean Air Act is the most successful public health legislation in our nation’s history, having saved millions of lives and trillions of dollars.

POLLUTERS HAD ALREADY WEAKENED THE CLEAN AIR ACT BY POLITICIZING COMMON-SENSE PROTECTIONS

The Clean Air Act worked so well because Congress took itself out of the process. Congress put EPA in charge of reviewing and updating rules for “air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare” without requiring new congressional votes.

This approach made sense as long as presidents were committed to upholding our health. But as polluters succeeded in polarizing common-sense protections against pollution, the Clean Air Act became a political yo-yo at the mercy of the whims of polluter-influenced presidents. 

As result, there should have been rules protecting us from power plant pollution decades ago – but there was no rule currently in effect.

President W. Bush and Vice President Cheney’s EPA refused to address carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. This lead to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that carbon pollution is of course a threat to our health covered under the Clean Air Act. President Obama’s EPA finally issued rules to address some carbon pollution in 2015. States sued, and leading to this court case. President Trump then repealed the Obama rules entirely. And now, by ruling on the non-existent Obama-era standard, the Supreme Court has blocked the Biden Administration’s ability to meaningfully act at the necessary scale without a specific act of congress.

Until we can re-establish that protecting kids from pollution is a no-brainer, which no elected leader would dare oppose, the Clean Air Act’s power to protect our health from polluters will continue to be in jeopardy. Now, the responsibility to protect families and our future from planet-warming pollution falls entirely to our elected officials.

WE NEEDED STRONG ACTION FROM ELECTED LEADERS BEFORE – AND WE STILL DO 

The Clean Air Act was a backstop against congressional gridlock — but it was never supposed to be the only way to protect us from carbon pollution. Moving in earnest to clean energy was always going to require a broader set of proactive actions from elected leaders.

In the many decades that scientists have recognized the threat of carbon pollution, federal lawmakers have failed to take action. (A 1990 bill reducing pollution causing acid rain was the last bill congress passed with any impact on sources of carbon pollution.)

Now that all of us parents are furious at the actions of the Court, it’s essential that we use that energy to demand the strongest possible action from our elected leaders, at every level of government. 

There is a lot every leader can do. Cities and states can move their cities to 100% clean energy, can set building and transportation plans which reduce pollution and prioritize clean energy, and can bring action to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their damage and propaganda. This is already happening in many places:

The more of this that happens, at every level, the more difficult it will be for elected leaders to serve polluters, not our families.

Here are a few ways you can help right now to build pressure on your elected leaders for action:

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