4 Reasons for Hope in Environmental Progress Despite the Supreme Court

We still have strong legal tools to protect people and the planet.

Tetris-style illustration with the U.S. Supreme Court building.
(Illustration by Rob Chambliss)

Americans are now governed by the most conservative Supreme Court of the United States in modern history. Recent environmental rulings from the Court have revealed a dangerous deregulatory agenda. But at Earthjustice, we still have strong legal tools to protect people and the planet.

  1. We are choosing cases and arguments carefully to avoid facing the most hostile courts or creating bad precedent. As the largest public interest environmental law organization, we have a lot of influence over which battles the environmental movement picks.
  2. There’s more to the judiciary than the Supreme Court. Ninety-nine percent of federal cases are resolved in lower federal courts. And the Supreme Court has little control over state court systems, many of which are open to innovative and progressive legal theories. That’s one reason we currently have cases before 24 state court systems.
  3. We don’t just file suit in courts. We litigate in administrative venues like public utility commissions, which often decide where our power gets generated. That’s where we fight against fossil-fuel industry lawyers who want to delay the energy transition. We also deliver legal advice and guidance to lawmakers and regulators who need help setting the rules of the road for the clean energy transition — on everything from how new power projects get onto the grid to utility rates for customers with rooftop solar.
  4. Finally, we have proven that we can win in front of hostile courts. For example, we built an incredible record of success defending environmental protections against the Trump administration; Earthjustice won 85% of the cases we brought against that administration, winning 52 of 61 cases that had been decided as of late 2021. (We even won a landmark Clean Water Act case before the Supreme Court.) And the Biden administration has appointed more favorable judges to the federal bench since then.