Supreme Court Ruling in EPA Case Has Ramifications for People at Risk of Disasters and Others Living in Affordable Housing

The Supreme Court announced its holding in the case of West Virginia vs. EPA on June 30. The case aimed to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate the emission of greenhouse gasses – one of the primary drivers of global climate change. The court held that EPA lacked the authority to regulate the power grid because doing so was a “major” regulatory action that Congress did not expressly authorize the EPA to take. The decision further complicates efforts by the U.S. to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accords, an agreement seeking to limit the amount of global warming to reduce the risk of climate catastrophe. Global warming is already reshaping life in the U.S. by contributing to wildfires, prolonged droughts, and stronger hurricanes. Storms and disasters such as these disproportionately affect households with low incomes.

The recent decision could also lead to higher rates of pollution that could disproportionately affect those living in federally assisted housing. A study published in a June issue of Nature found that air pollution exposure disparately effects those residing in federally subsidized housing. The study found that public housing is frequently located in communities subjected to greater exposure to PM25, a type of pollutant that, while not a greenhouse gas, commonly arises from the same sources. These particles have been linked to premature death, particularly in people with chronic heart or lung diseases. The study found that non-white, disabled, and extremely low-income households are exposed to disproportionately higher levels of PM25. Other studies, meanwhile, have found that 70% of hazardous Superfund sites listed by the EPA are located within one mile of federally assisted housing developments.

Due to the connections between PM25 and the sources of greenhouse gasses, as well as the impact of the court’s ruling on EPA’s ability to regulate these sources, West Virginia vs. EPA may have severe consequences for households with low-incomes.

Read the decision at:

Read the study on pollution and federally assisted housing published in Nature at: