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What the Supreme Court’s EPA decision could mean for you

Expect the quality of life in America to drop significantly if conservatives get their way on deregulation.


UPDATE (June 30, 2022, 10:07 a.m. ET): The Supreme Court issued a ruling on Thursday significantly curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in a climate-related case will likely threaten the very concept of a federal government. 

The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, concerns whether the government can impose regulations to stem climate change — but the implications extend far beyond that. The decision is expected to drop Thursday.

In reality, many government regulations are the only thing keeping our democratic society afloat.

Some quick background on the case: West Virginia’s attorney general is suing on behalf of coal companies who are arguing the federal government doesn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Clean Power Plan, a policy put in place during the Obama administration. 

Fundamentally, though, the case will effectively determine whether, according to the six conservative justices on the Supreme Court, the government has any authority to impose regulations at all. Republicans have been attacking the so-called administrative state — that is, government agencies — for decades now. These agencies have traditionally been tasked with upholding civil rights and human rights, and the GOP sees them as roadblocks impeding their anti-democratic vision for the country. 

For years, they have spewed hypercapitalist propaganda downplaying government regulations as drags on the economy. And to the GOP’s credit, it’s probably been pretty successful: Many Americans will hear “regulations” are ending and think that means the end of unnecessary red tape. 

In reality, many government regulations are the only thing keeping our democratic society afloat. 

Here’s what a deregulated America could mean for you:

  • An America free of government regulations would mean no federal emissions standards, worsening our air quality and lurching us all one step closer to fatal climate catastrophe. 
  • It would mean poorer water quality, since the EPA also enforces water standards. (Then-President Donald Trump, you may remember, weakened those standards in 2019, before the Biden administration reinstated them.) 
  • A deregulated America could spell the end of Title IX, the landmark federal legislation banning gender-based discrimination in school activities. (You may also remember then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolled back Title IX protections during the Trump administration.) 
  • It would lead to more housing discrimination as well, since the Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces anti-discrimination regulations that bar the practice. (Trump’s HUD Secretary Ben Carson weakened anti-discrimination policies during his tenure.) 
  • Deregulation would lead to poorer food quality as well. (Various agencies scrapped food safety measures during Trump’s time in office.) 
  • It would also hamper federal health agencies trying to institute measures that keep us safe. (The April federal ruling in Florida overturning the federal mask mandate on public transit was just a peek into how things could play out in a future in which government regulations are neutered.)

Americans need to realize this is the country conservatives want: a country in name only. They want each state to operate as its own fiefdom, free to inflict whatever harm it pleases on its residents without any government agencies telling it that it can’t. And barring fierce opposition, that’s the world they might get.