Explainer

Supreme Court Decisions to Watch with the Environment and Democracy At Stake

Jun 18, 2024

Everyone deserves a world with clean water and air, quality education, accessible healthcare, and a robust democracy. But the laws that protect our environment and our rights are only as strong as the judges who uphold them.

The corrupt MAGA justices on the captured Supreme Court are once again erasing progress across a vast range of issue areas, including environmental protections, voting rights, reproductive rights, and diversity in higher education. These rulings have a reverberating effect, disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable communities and undermining our most fundamental rights, including to clean air, water and a healthy climate.

Now, in the next few weeks, the Court will deliver decisions in some of the most influential cases of the year.

Brace for impact. Here’s what’s at stake…

1. The Relentless Power Grab

Relentless v. Department of Commerce/Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo | SEC v. Jarkesy | Corner Post v. Federal Reserve

In several cases coming up this month, the MAGA justices have given themselves opportunities to grab even more power from public agencies that protect the people from powerful special interests—all so those same MAGA judges can use it to strip away the people’s protections and pad big polluters’ bottom line.

Billionaires and big business have showered MAGA justices with millions of dollars of gifts including rides on their private jets and yachts. And, the lawyers working to roll back our protections are backed by oil billionaire Charles Koch, who vacations with Clarence Thomas.

Not only would these decisions affect agencies like the EPA, but they would have sweeping implications for almost every area of public policy including democracy, healthcare, reproductive rights, labor, immigration, education, and so much more.

2. Clean Air On The Line in Ohio v. EPA

Despite the risk it poses to air quality, the Supreme Court has agreed to gamble with the health of communities by considering whether or not to freeze the EPA’s air regulations.

In Ohio v. EPA, Big Polluters are trying to overturn what’s called the “Good Neighbor Plan” – a critical commonsense policy that serves to protect the people against harmful emissions. It requires states to take steps to limit pollution, produced by places like power plants and industry facilities, that affect neighboring states’ air.

If the Supreme Court sides with polluters, the Good Neighbor Plan would be put on hold, threatening our communities, our environment, and our right to breathe clean air.

This case comes after the Supreme Court has rolled back bedrock environmental protections through a series of recent decisions, including West Virginia v. EPA (2022) and Sackett v. EPA (2023), so we really can’t afford another win for the fossil fuel industry — and neither can our planet.

3. Democracy Dealt A Blow in Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy. It is the right that protects all other rights, including the right to clean air, clean water, and a sustainable future.

In May, after a decade of weakening voting rights, the MAGA justices upheld a racist gerrymander in South Carolina designed to dilute the political power of Black voters and benefit Republican politicians.

These same justices had already ruled that our constitution does not protect the people from partisan gerrymandering. In this case, they used the political partisanship of South Carolina’s congressional map—which is totally fine, according to them—as a shield to protect what was in effect a racial gerrymander harming voters of color.

And this isn’t just about South Carolina. This decision weakens protections against racist gerrymanders nationwide.

We cannot let corrupt MAGA justices on the captured Supreme Court continue to erode our most fundamental freedoms in service of big polluters and other powerful special interests.

We need justices who will protect our rights instead of dismantling them.

How can we fix the Supreme Court and ensure it protects our rights and the planet?

  • Expand and rebalance the Supreme Court so it enforces our rights and protections instead of attacking them.
  • Pass a binding code of ethics for the Supreme Court—which unlike other courts doesn’t have one.
  • Confirm President Biden’s pro-environment, pro-democracy, pro-choice judges to every lifetime vacancy.

Tell Congress: we must rein in the Supreme Court to protect our environment, our democracy, and our fundamental rights.

The Best Thing You Can Do Right Now

Tell Congress: Rein in the Supreme Court

The laws that protect our environment, our democracy, and our rights are only as strong as the judges who uphold them. The current Supreme Court’s far-right majority has proven that they’ll twist the law to attack our rights and protections instead of defending them. Congress must rein in this unbalanced, unaccountable, and unethical Supreme Court majority.

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Closeup of the US Supreme Court.