Insider Briefing: Supreme Court’s gift to fossil fuel polluters

Three things you can do this summer to keep up the momentum, despite the Supreme Court’s decision.

Insider Briefing: Supreme Court’s gift to fossil fuel polluters


Another day, another stunning decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m reaching out to share my perspective on the Supreme Court’s decision to curb the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power to limit greenhouse gas emissions—and what it means for the Pacific Northwest. 

A quick personal note: I’ve spent the last 15 years working with our members, Tribal Nations, and incredible community partners up and down the Columbia fighting coal, oil, and fracked gas corporations. The Supreme Court has not—and will not—stop our ability to fight giant fossil fuel proposals. And WIN. 

As a mother of two incredible daughters and an environmental attorney who values the Clean Air Act, I’m shaking with rage (on so many levels). You probably are, too. Remember you are not alone. Time and again, when Columbia River communities unite, we deliver epic victories for our climate. (If you need a reminder, check out Columbia Riverkeeper’s success stories for a dose of inspiration.) 

What the Supreme Court decided: The Court curbed EPA’s options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, a decision viewed by many as one of the most important environmental decisions in years. The decision is a setback for the Biden administration’s efforts to combat climate change. The Court ruled that EPA does not have broad authority to shift the nation’s energy production away from coal-burning power plants toward cleaner sources, including solar and wind power, under a specific section of the Clean Air Act. The ruling has serious ramifications for federal agencies’ ability to regulate polluters.

Why we can keep winning on climate change in the Pacific Northwest: The Court’s decision does not unravel the fifteen and counting fossil fuel infrastructure projects (LNG, coal export, and oil-by-rail terminals, pipelines, fracked-gas refineries etc.) that you defeated along the Columbia. The Court’s decision does not undue the climate legislation Oregon and Washington adopted to tackle the climate crisis. States and local governments continue to take action because Columbia Riverkeeper and our members have demanded action when the federal government’s efforts stalled. The Court’s decision highlights why we must keep fighting at the local and state level. Together, we shut down Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant with a lawsuit and grassroots organizing. And, due to incredible activism, Washington law requires the state’s last coal-fired power plant to shut down in 2025. 

Here are three things you can do this summer to keep up the momentum, despite the Supreme Court’s decision:
  1. Donate to Columbia Riverkeeper to support our team of grassroots community organizers, attorneys, and media specialists.
  2. Sign Columbia Riverkeeper’s petition calling on Governors Brown and Inslee to oppose fracked gas pipeline expansion. 
  3. Show up—at rallies and public hearings (most are still virtual)—to keep the pressure on for our climate and clean water. Follow us on social media and read our emails for the latest opportunities. Next up: a July 12 virtual public hearing on the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s deep dive into the future of gas in Oregon.

Check out OPB’s reporting for more perspectives on the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Pacific Northwest.