Last week, the Supreme Court released its ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency. The Court gutted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Considering power plants are some of the largest contributors to climate-warming gases in the world, this decision shuns scientific facts and consensus in a gut-wrenching partisan display. This decision is devastating for those of us who work to protect clean air and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.
The truly devastating fact is that this is the latest in a series of harmful decisions from the Supreme Court, released in succession with an underlying mission to disempower much of what we at MEIC do best: engage with policy and rely on laws to hold government and industry accountable. Even worse, these decisions build upon centuries of inequity and will harm the health and environment of impacted people in this country for generations. It is vulnerable populations who will suffer most: women, BIPOC folks, LGBTQ+ community members, poor people, and, of course, the environment upon which all life on earth depends.
In Oklahoma vs Castro-Huerta, SCOTUS ruled that the State of Oklahoma could prosecute non-Native people who commit crimes against a Native person on Tribal lands. This ruling undermines Tribal sovereignty, instead forcing Tribes to rely on Oklahoma courts, which have “routinely failed to deliver justice for Native victims,” according to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Fort Belknap Indian Community’s president Jeffery Stiffarm weighed in to say that the ruling was “another attempt to dilute the sovereignty of Indian nations,” and a “slap in the face.” It also goes back on promises that were made to the Tribal nations. It is easy to see how such a decision could interfere with Tribal Rights and Tribal ability to protect the environment. MEIC stands with the Tribes in the continued pursuit of justice and true sovereignty and looks to leaders in this space such as Western Native Voice, Native American Rights Fund, and NDN Collective.
MEIC also supports reproductive justice. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision upholding Mississippi’s draconian Gestational Age Act reverts healthcare 50 years and should send chills through us all. The argument that “the Constitution makes no mention of abortion” so such healthcare is not constitutionally protected is without teeth. The Constitution does not mention the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts, nor does it mention laws to protect women’s rights including the right to use birth control, marriage for interracial or LGBTQ+ couples, Tribal voting rights, and so much more. The Dobbs decision threatens all rights that have been acquired since 1789 and compromises the bodily autonomy of at least half of our population. For work in this arena, MEIC looks to Montana Women Vote, ACLU of Montana, Planned Parenthood of MT, NARAL, and Blue Mountain Clinic, to name a few.
A sign at a recent rally read, “Life begins at conception and ends at mass shootings.” This hits close to home after the Supreme Court again undermined the government’s ability to protect people in New York State Rifle & Pistol v. Bruen. Gun violence and the climate crisis are real threats that will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, SCOTUS is blatantly ignoring these threats, undermining regulatory power, and instead empowering people who are hostile to safety, environmental concerns and equity. MEIC looks to the leaders at Everytown for Gun Safety for common sense gun laws that will protect our lived environments and our families.
This series of rulings show a contempt for rights we enjoy and are enshrined in Montana’s Constitution. In the wake of these decisions, we must turn toward each other, toward other organizations working on these issues, and the strength of the Montana Constitution to protect our right to privacy, our rights to know and participate, and our right to a clean and healthful environment. MEIC will be working with our allies, supporting these expert organizations in their fields, and mobilizing our thousands of members and supporters in defense of our health, environment, fundamental rights, and of the well-being of our communities.
MEIC is an organization that is composed of people — staff, board, volunteers, partners, and members. Montana’s environmental advocacy movement is composed of people. Because these rulings impact Indigenous communities, communities near power plants, communities vulnerable to pollution and impacts of the climate crisis, people with uteruses, and those who attend schools, grocery stores, and other public places, we are all impacted. To those who would tell us to “stay in our lane,” we point to the great Audre Lorde, who said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
There is work to be done, and we simply cannot do it alone. Please consider signing up for action alerts from and donating to some of the organizations in this statement whose expertise and leadership are invaluable. Have conversations with your friends and family about these issues. Push for better legislation, accountability, and representation at local, state, and national levels.
MEIC will continue to be a leader in Montana environmental advocacy and will work to support those impacted by these SCOTUS decisions.