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What the SCOTUS Clean Air Act Ruling Means for Us

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA limits the Agency’s authority to regulate emissions and pollution under the Clean Air Act. You may be wondering how this impacts Massachusetts.

In their decision, the Supreme Court removed many of the options available to our lead environmental agency for holding polluting power plants accountable for their carbon emissions.

Air, Emissions, and Rivers

Air pollution not only harms public health, but also impacts our river ecosystems. Contaminants from the air work their way into plants, soils, rainfall, and eventually into the food chain.

Increased carbon emissions nationwide means worse conditions for rivers everywhere, including here in Massachusetts. Carbon emissions are drastically increasing the rate of climate change, and associated impacts on rivers: more intense storm events, increased stormwater pollution and flooding, more frequent and extreme droughts, warmer streams, and reduced streamflows.

This is scary. But we’re working on it.

What We’re Doing at the Federal Level

Mass Rivers Alliance works in close partnership with EPA Region 1 (which serves New England) to ensure they’re effectively implementing programs and regulations that protect waterways. We also hold them accountable when their regulations fall short of the protections our waters - and people - deserve. For example, we successfully led an appeal against EPA (under the Trump administration) for their failure to implement stormwater regulations.

What We’re Doing at the State Level

Strong state level actions can serve as a backstop to weakened federal regulations. Year-round, Mass Rivers works with state legislators and environmental agencies, advocating for strong river protections through legislation, regulations, funding and programming.

Another Case to Come - Sackett v. EPA

West Virginia v. EPA sets a bad precedent for restricting EPA’s ability to regulate on other matters, including water. The Supreme Court will hear a Clean Water Act case in September, Sackett v. EPA, which the court could use to further limit EPA’s authority. The Clean Water Act is a foundational environmental law that protects our rivers, wetlands, wildlife, and communities, and one of the public’s strongest tools against polluters. Mass Rivers is one of over 100 petitioners to the court seeking to uphold the Clean Water Act, and is participating in our state’s delegation petitioning Congress for stronger watershed protections.

The Work Continues

We recognize that current political conditions are threatening. We hope you’ll take some solace in knowing we’ve got your back.

Mass Rivers is working tirelessly with a powerful coalition of local, state, and national organizations, as well as lawmakers, to advance climate solutions. If the federal government won’t set firm limits on pollution, Massachusetts can. We will not give up.

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