The Supreme Court has voted to sharply limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. The court’s 6-3 ruling in the case of West Virginia v. EPA is seen as a major victory for the fossil fuel industry and a result of a decades-long attempt to limit the regulation of corporations. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan slammed the decision, writing for the dissent, “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.” Joining the majority opinion was Trump appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose father helped lead the American Petroleum Institute for two decades.
Environmental groups have filed a pair of lawsuits seeking to block the Biden administration from restarting lease sales for oil and gas wells on public lands. Together, the lawsuits seek to protect more than 140,000 acres in several western states. In April, President Biden called on the U.S. to expand fossil fuel drilling to offset a spike in fuel costs linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said in response, “Selling off more public lands for drilling might help Big Oil, but it won’t lower gas prices and it will worsen climate chaos.”
In Lisbon, Portugal, hundreds of protesters marched Thursday outside the U.N. Ocean Conference demanding meaningful action to halt pollution, protect marine life and slow the warming of the Earth’s seas. The conference brought together some 7,000 scientists, activists and heads of state. Greenpeace oceans policy adviser Laura Meller spoke at a protest outside the talks.
Laura Meller: “While activists are peacefully — trying to peacefully protest outside the conference venue, the real looters, the ocean destroyers, are out there depleting the oceans as we speak.”
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Thursday it will hear oral arguments this October in Moore v. Harper, a case involving gerrymandered congressional maps that were struck down by North Carolina’s highest court. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of North Carolina Republicans could strip state courts of their power to strike down state laws, while expanding the power of GOP-controlled state legislatures to control federal elections. The court agreed to hear Moore v. Harper one day after it ruled 6 to 3 to reinstate a Republican-drawn congressional map in Louisiana struck down by a lower court as a racially motivated violation of the Voting Rights Act. New York Democratic Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response, “We are witnessing a judicial coup in process. If the President and Congress do not restrain the Court now, the Court is signaling they will come for the Presidential election next.”
The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 Thursday that the Biden administration may end the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that a lower court had overreached when it found the policy should remain in place after President Biden ordered it rescinded last year. Since the program’s implementation in 2019, some 70,000 asylum seekers were forced to wait in Mexico while their cases were resolved in U.S. courts. Thousands enrolled in MPP reported being kidnapped, raped, tortured and facing homelessness while they waited in Mexico.
In San Antonio, Texas, the alleged driver of the truck where dozens of asylum seekers died after they were trapped in scorching heat made his first appearance in court Thursday. Homero Zamorano faces human smuggling charges resulting in the death of 53 people. Three others have also been arrested in connection to the tragedy.
Meanwhile, immigrant justice advocates in the Texas border city of El Paso held a vigil Thursday honoring the San Antonio victims and the thousands of other asylum seekers who’ve lost their lives trying to reach the United States for refuge.
Irma Licon: “Our only crime is to have needs. We don’t come to steal or to commit crimes, but rather to work, to help our families. Each one of these crossings does not represent just one person. There are families, children and siblings behind all of this, behind each person who just died.”
French authorities have arrested at least 10 suspected smugglers in connection to the drownings of 27 asylum seekers near Calais, France, as they attempted to cross the English Channel. The tragedy happened last November. One of the victims was 7 years old.
Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in Thursday as the 116th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — and the first Black woman to hold the position in the court’s 233-year history. At a noon ceremony, Chief Justice John Roberts administered Jackson a constitutional oath. She then took a judicial oath administered by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom Jackson clerked after she graduated from Harvard Law School in 1996.
Outside the Supreme Court, police arrested more than 180 reproductive rights protesters Thursday as they peacefully blocked an intersection in a massive show of nonviolent civil disobedience. The protest took place just six days after the court’s conservative majority voted 6 to 3 to strike down Roe v. Wade. Among those arrested were Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson and Democratic U.S. Congressmember Judy Chu of California. Melanie D’Arrigo, a progressive Democrat running for Congress in Long Island, New York, said after her arrest, “I was let go after a couple of hours—but for millions of people in states where abortion, a critical health procedure, is now criminalized, their arrests will be far longer and far more severe.”
A court in Kentucky has temporarily blocked the state’s so-called trigger law abortion ban from taking effect. Lawyers for Kentucky’s only two abortion providers are reviewing Thursday’s ruling to determine when the Louisville clinics can restart abortion care. In Florida, a judge has temporarily blocked a state law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers in Florida’s Republican-led state Legislature are reportedly planning to introduce even more restrictive anti-abortion bills in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, President Biden called on Senate Democrats to agree to a “carve-out” filibuster exception in order to pass new reproductive rights legislation.
President Joe Biden: “I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law, and the way to do that is to make sure the Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights: It should be we provide an exception for this, requiring an exception to the filibuster for this action.”
Biden was speaking from the NATO summit in Madrid. In response, the offices of Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said they would not agree to a carve-out to the filibuster to codify abortion rights.
In Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared today before a court outside Moscow, where she faces up to 10 years in prison. Griner was detained on February 17 after she was picked up at a Russian airport on allegations of carrying cannabis oil vape cartridges. Her supporters say Russia is using her as a political pawn. The New York Times reports the Kremlin appears interested in a possible prisoner exchange involving Griner and Viktor Bout, an infamous arms trafficker known as the “Merchant of Death” who was sentenced to 25 years in a U.S. prison in 2012 for conspiracy to commit terrorism.
In Ecuador, Indigenous leaders have reached an agreement with the government, ending nearly three weeks of massive protests due to rising food and fuel prices. The deal includes a decrease in fuel costs, sets limits on oil exploration on Indigenous land and prohibits mining on protected areas, national parks and water sources. The government has been given 90 days to act. Indigenous leaders have vowed to push the government to fulfill all demands.