What Clean Fashion Says About Supreme Court EPA Ruling

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After overturning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court next targeted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to combat climate change.

A Thursday SCOTUS ruling stripped the EPA of its regulatory power to reduce carbon outputs for existing power plants, meaning the Biden administration’s goals to fight climate change are moving more toward a distant pipe dream. One such aim is to green the U.S. power grid by 2035 — while reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

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Essentially, the court sided with coal in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, a case that dealt with the interpretation of the federal Clean Air Act, putting itself (rather than Congress or the expert agency) as the final decision maker on climate policy.

Newest Supreme Court justice and first Black woman to sit on the high court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was also sworn in Thursday. She replaced outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer, though her arrival will not sway the majority for conservatives.

Already, protests are planned with one by the D.C.-based nonprofit Food & Water Watch set to convene in downtown Manhattan tonight outside New York’s Supreme Courthouse. The nonprofit looks to rally New Yorkers in support of a statewide ban on fossil fuels in new buildings and the Build Public Renewables Act.

Industries are responding with a mixture of frustration and encouraging words, with New York fashion designers trying to put things into perspective.

Sustainable designer Johnathan Hayden said the ruling ensured the worst of impacts are kicked down the road, telling WWD: “SCOTUS decisions one week are directly connected to oversight and accountability protection for impoverished people — the most often harmed — [the next week]. It continues to demonstrate our government cannot lead. It is left to our dwindling middle class of new entrepreneurs and designers to problem solve and provide creative opportunities for consumers to have a choice to shop their conscience. The onus is on the merchant and their customer to tow the line.”

Mara Hoffman chimed in, calling Thursday’s ruling another heartbreaking decision in the mix of the latest “litigious disasters.”

“While it is important to keep pushing forward and keep fighting, because it doesn’t end here — it can’t, it is equally as important to take stock of our own energy reserves, check on the environmental activists who have been boots on the ground and on the front lines, especially the Black, Brown and Indigenous women who have been leading this battle for decades, and offer whatever support is needed right now. And then we keep moving, collectively and collaboratively, pushing ourselves to do better, fighting harder, regulating further and holding ourselves and each other even more accountable,” she said.

A foremost proponent for environmental justice in media communications, the Environmental Media Association’s chief executive officer Debbie Levin told WWD that the decision can’t upend the ultimate power of conscious citizens.

“Whether the court realizes this or not, the public is demanding responsibility from the companies that they support. Fashion and beauty as well as other industries now must be transparent with their internal practices. The dominant generation of consumers are millennials and Gen Z who will not patronize brands that dismiss their responsibility doing business.”

PC Chandra, an advisory board member of sustainably-minded venture capital firm Alante Capital, said past successes can’t be discounted.

“Let’s look beyond the Supreme Court’s ruling on the EPA’s jurisdiction, and focus on the results of the plan it just struck down. The top-line carbon emission reduction targets set by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan worked, with many states meeting those targets more than 10 years ahead of schedule.” He underscored the evidence that policy-driven, science-based targets are effective in tandem with dropping prices for energy alternatives. “Legal scholars may be more focused on unwinding the decision on jurisdiction, but we should not lose sight of setting and acting on this proven course of action.”

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