Congress’s Comeback: A New Era of Climate Law

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Developments this past summer—including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA and the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—have dramatically reshaped the future of U.S. climate law. In this month’s issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, Cinnamon Carlarne reflects on these events as examples of “climate creep”: the steady accretion of advances in law and social consensus that will prevent political actors from obstructing progress on climate change.

Aerial view of Capitol building

Carlarne, who first named the phenomenon in ELR’s May issue, argues that the decision in West Virginia ultimately failed to stymie the ongoing advancement of climate law. Her Comment examines how the Court is “doing jurisprudential backbends to try to limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to develop an expansive greenhouse gas regulatory regime.” But she juxtaposes West Virginia with the IRA’s spending provisions, explaining that the new law provides the United States with a legal climate core and sets the country on a path toward a strong federal foundation for climate change regulation.

Carlarne argues that this summer’s events demonstrate the success of climate creep. While efforts to undermine federal rulemaking will continue, she maintains that climate creep has now taken hold in the executive branch, in other courts, and in Congress. Its effects mean that current and future policymaking will limit the ability of the Court and other actors to block progress on climate. Carlarne concludes by urging continued efforts to build out an expansive, multilayered legal system in order to achieve shared climate goals.

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