What the SCOTUS ruling on the EPA means for Illinois
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – The nationwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is facing a new obstacle. Thursday, the Supreme Court decided to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power plant emissions. One climatologist said we’ve already started to feel the impact of climate change in Illinois, and this ruling makes it harder for other climate scientists across the country to do their jobs.

“We need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It has to happen to avoid the the worst impacts of climate change,” Illinois State climatologist Dr. Trenton Ford said. “The changes to our climate we’ve seen here in Illinois… those are directly related to global concentrations of carbon dioxide.”

For Illinois, severe effects could take the form of more intense rainfall, extreme heat, warmer winters, agricultural challenges and even public health issues – like longer allergy seasons. But, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA does not have full authority to govern power plants that emit greenhouse gases.

“Even though it’s a global issue, it has local impacts here. So, this does matter for Illinoisians for sure,” Ford said.

He said he’s disappointed because even though scientists still have plenty of tools to combat climate change, others say it’s a “major step in the wrong direction.”

“It was a very effective and efficient tool. So what this does is it really puts the onus on the market to continue those sorts of shifts away from carbon heavy electricity, which of course the market can be unpredictable,” Ford said.

He said this also puts the responsibility on Congress to pass legislation that mandates reductions in carbon emissions from the electricity industry. But, he’s not too worried about being limited at the state level. The Illinois EPA said in a statement the Supreme Court’s decision does not impact the state’s ability to pursue its own climate change programs, but it highlights the importance of all states taking initiative to fill the gaps in federal policy.

“How we get there does matter of course – that’s the main goal, and we have to do it as quickly as possible,” Ford said.

But, we’re already not making progress quickly enough. Earlier this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that if global warming isn’t limited soon, its effects on the planet may potentially be irreversible.

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