Supreme Gut Punches

Hi, all.

As Lucy wrote about on Friday, the Supreme Court has been delivering some serious gut punches of late: We saw the overturning of Roe v. Wade coming with the leaked opinion, but that didn’t dampen the blow, and last week’s ruling that struck down a gun control law in New York was also beyond disappointing. 

To make matters worse, our now very conservative Court is expected to soon rule on West Virginia v. EPA and essentially dismantle the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions with regards to climate change. (Perhaps you remember the case from a Movement Monday in January, when Breyer Retired?)

And that’s the narrow case. In the broad case, the Court could hugely curtail agency powers by ruling that every agency (not just the EPA) needs specific direction from Congress to carry out their duties, whereas historically, these agencies have taken laws as passed by Congress as a broad mandate and then decided on specific rules and policies within the agencies. NPR’s Laura Benshoff explained the stakes this way: “If it’s narrow, just limiting how the EPA regulates greenhouse gasses at power plants, that could hurt the Biden administration’s goal of zeroing out carbon pollution from power plants… If it’s a broader decision, that could send shockwaves through many agencies and reframe the relationship between Congress and the executive branch, basically.”

Ufda! With all the structural uncertainty pumping through our political system right now and with the health of our democracy potentially in peril (not to mention the world-ending nature of climate change looming over us), I think I’d like to keep the relationship between Congress and the executive branch un-reframed, thank you very much. 

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is designed to be pretty insulated from public opinion, so although we still encourage the people to get out there and demand change, we as the public are powerless to affect these rulings (and others) in the short term.

BUT, there are things that we as the public do have power over–specifically, Public Utility Commissions or Public Service Commissions. Every state has one, and they regulate the natural gas and electricity monopolies in the US, which means they regulate a whole bunch of emissions, and if the name didn’t give it away, they actually do have to answer to the public in each state. This handy-dandy video gives a good explanation. ⤵

Now, I’m not saying that this a switch we can just flip, but if you’re looking to leverage some power where it feels like you can actually have some influence, attending PUC or PSC meetings or working with a climate group to lobby the PUC is a great place to try to make something happen

Taking action at the PUC level can soften the blow of bummer Supreme Court verdicts a bit–just a little bit. We’re still fired up–just fired up with a purpose, from Alabama to Wyoming, and everything in between. 

Thanks for reading– till next week!

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