Sustainability Climate Change

Most voters concerned over climate impact of Supreme Court EPA ruling: poll

Polling conducted before the Court ruled on West Virginia v. EPA shows the majority of Americans are concerned about removing protections under the Clean Air Act.
steam from a coal plant
The Associated Press/ Rick Bowmer

Story at a glance

  • The Supreme Court Thursday sided with plaintiffs in a case that claimed certain powers under the Clean Air Act should be under Congress’ jurisdiction instead of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • Environmental groups decried the decision, saying it will hamper President Biden’s climate goals.

  • Likely voters polled earlier this month cited concerns over curbing the EPA’s regulatory power. 

In a Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday, the justices limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power by imposing limits on the agency’s ability to curb power plant emissions.

In West Virginia v. EPA, justices ruled, “Congress did not grant EPA in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act the authority to devise emissions caps based on the generation shifting approach the Agency took in the Clean Power Plan.” 

Polling carried out by the progressive organizations Data For Progress and Evergreen Action earlier in June showed many American voters concerned with such a decision curbing the EPA’s power.

According to a survey among 1,320 likely voters June 10-14, 63 percent of respondents said they were concerned about the court removing protections established by the Clean Air Act, first introduced in 1970. The polling results were published nine days before the court released its decision.

Plaintiffs in the case included 19 mostly Republican attorneys general and coal companies who argued these powers should fall on Congress rather than the EPA. 

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Among those polled, 74 percent reported they were concerned with air and water pollution in their communities — a total that consists of 79 percent Independents and 57 percent Republicans. 

Another large sum of voters agreed the EPA should be able to regulate air pollution that contributed to climate change, with an overwhelming majority of this total identifying as Democrats. 

“West Virginia v. EPA is the culmination of a years-long effort by the fossil fuel industry and right wing activists to turn back the clock on decades of legal and administrative precedent to put more power in the hands of corporations,” said Evergreen Action in a statement issued before the ruling.  

“This extreme step would defy legal precedent and the will of the American people, and would further erode the legitimacy of an already historically controversial court.” 

Harmful emissions from power plants contribute to respiratory problems, cancer and immune system damage, while minority and underserved populations bear a disproportionate health burden from these pollutants.