The EPA prepares for its 'counterpunch' after the Supreme Court ruling The Supreme Court's ruling that curbs the power of the EPA will slow its ability to respond to the climate crisis, but "does not take the EPA out of the game," according to its administrator.

The EPA prepares for its 'counterpunch' after the Supreme Court ruling

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JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the authority to set limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants. Experts worry that this could curb the government's ability to fight climate change. President Biden called the decision devastating and vowed to continue tackling the climate crisis. EPA Administrator Michael Regan joins us now to talk about all of this could mean for his agency. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MICHAEL REGAN: Thank you for having me.

SUMMERS: So to start, how big of a setback is this ruling to the administration's climate change agenda?

REGAN: You know, it's deeply disappointing to see what the Supreme Court is doing in this ruling. And it is a setback, but it does not take EPA out of the game. While there are constraints and we're still reviewing this ruling, the apparent constraints don't prevent EPA from regulating climate pollution. And so we're going to move forward with every legal authority to regulate climate pollution and protect communities that we have.

SUMMERS: You've pointed out the urgency of this issue, and the Biden administration came into office with the most ambitious climate agenda of any president. There was the pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of this decade. How challenging does this ruling make meeting that target?

REGAN: You know, climate action presents an unmatched opportunity to ensure global competitiveness, create jobs, lower costs for families and protect people's health, especially those who've long suffered. And so we are, you know, optimistic that we can continue to move forward to do all of these things because the technology's available. The market signals are there. And, you know, as a government administration, we want to provide those rules of the road so that industry has the right certainty to make these longer-term investment.

SUMMERS: If the Biden administration cannot meet its target as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions, could that have ripple effects on the rest of the world's ability to fight the effects of climate change?

REGAN: Well, you know, as I travel internationally and talk to my colleagues around the globe, we talk about the work that we've already done. We, over the past 18 months or so, have done a really good job of focusing on the full suite of climate pollutants. Power plants play a significant role in this larger picture, and that's why the Supreme Court's ruling is disappointing because it's slowing down the momentum of not only curtailing climate change impacts but the globally competitive aspects that this country can seize to create jobs and grow economic opportunities. And so I remain optimistic. This administration remains optimistic. By the way, it's not just EPA. The president's vision has the entire government working together hand in hand.

SUMMERS: Give us an example of what that whole-of-government approach looks like 'cause I've heard that cited a number of times by others in the administration, as well. What does that look like?

REGAN: You know, it looks like the conversations that I'm having with Secretary Tom Vilsack in Agriculture to think about innovative agricultural practices that can curtail carbon emissions. It looks like the type of partnership that I have with Secretary Jennifer Granholm as we think about the technological solutions of the future, their research and development dollars that the Department of Energy has to invest in advanced technologies are married, going hand in hand so that we can get these things at a commercial scale sooner rather than later. The conversations I'm having with Marty Walsh about the job opportunities, the union opportunities and how we can grow jobs in the economy. There's an all-of-government approach here, and I think as administrator, I am working with all of my colleagues to leverage all of those opportunities.

SUMMERS: We've talked a good deal about the Supreme Court ruling, but I want to broaden out a bit now and talk about Congress. It seems that this ruling puts a good deal more pressure on reaching some sort of a deal on a climate bill on Capitol Hill. And Congress so far, as you know well, has failed to act in any significant way on climate change. How critical is passing a climate bill legislatively to this administration meeting its goals?

REGAN: You know, it's an important piece if we want to keep pace with tackling the climate crisis at the rate that we know we need to and the science tells us. But, you know, I've said this from day one - the president has a number of tools in his toolbox, and EPA has been using those tools from day one while the administration engages with Congress. We're not going to wait. We can't wait. And the administration will continue to work with Congress. And hopefully, we'll see Congress act.

SUMMERS: And lastly, I'm curious - as you assess and continue to assess the impact of this ruling, what message does this send to the American people about the environmental priorities in this country? And I wonder if you worry about further rulings that could come from the court next term that could impede your ability to address what you've described as an urgent crisis.

REGAN: We'll continue to keep our eye on the court, and we'll continue to think through how we work and power through some of these setbacks. We have no other option. We have to continue to move forward. I think it sends a message that every single American in this country has a voice, and their voices need to be heard. And if their voices are heard, then we'll begin to see more of the types of actions that Americans want to see.

I think when you look at the polling, you know, most Americans agree that climate change is real and needs to be addressed. Most Americans understand that there are environmental and health impacts from climate change. And so most Americans want us to move forward. Rulings like yesterday prevent us from moving forward as quickly as we would like. So Americans should use their voices as much as possible to ensure that we can move forward and do the things that the American people would like for us to do.

SUMMERS: That was Michael Regan. He is the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Thanks for being here.

REGAN: Thank you for having me.

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