Too Close to Home

Jul 25, 2022
Sejal Choksi-Chugh
by Sejal Choksi-Chugh

I had planned to send this note earlier this month after the Supreme Court issued a series of devastating decisions. But I got delayed by a mother-daughter trip to Chicago to celebrate the 4th of July holiday where we stayed with friends… just ten minutes from Highland Park.

Rather than commemorate our country’s freedom by eating cotton candy, waving flags, and watching fireworks, the entire community went on lock down that day, praying for the police to catch an active shooter. Us adults were frantically and furtively trying to follow the news as the death toll rose, while at the same time trying to distract the kids with games to avoid answering too many questions about why we were forced to stay inside.

The whole tragedy just struck too close to home. And it was horrifying to believe that in the wake of all these recent, tragic school and neighborhood shootings across the country, the Supreme Court had dismantled century-old gun safety laws just weeks before.

The highest court in the land had also turned back the hands of time on women’s rights, which means my daughter—and the girlfriends she was giggling with during our trip—will now all grow up in a nation that no longer recognizes their right to control their own bodies.

So, I returned to the Bay Area last week feeling outraged. And the state of our world has only made me angrier since.

Amidst record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, coal puppet Joe Manchin and the climate science deniers in the Senate made Congress useless at tackling climate change. President Biden got cold feet and stepped back from his plan to declare a national climate emergency. And the Supreme Court in West Virginia v US Environmental Protection Agency undermined EPA’s regulatory authority and may have put the final nail in the coffin that seals our climate-fueled fate.

Back in 2015, EPA determined that shifting away from dirty fuels to clean energy was the best way to reduce power plant pollution. But the justices undid that determination, holding that EPA couldn’t systemically reduce dirty emissions, but only mandate what an individual coal or natural gas-burning power plant could do to clean up a specific operation.

The court’s conservative justices thumbed their noses at the language of the Clean Air Act that gave EPA the authority to find the best system to “protect and enhance” the quality of the air we breathe. They didn’t care that carbon pollution from power plants is killing people. And it didn't matter to them that climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our planet today.

This new ruling will limit the Clean Air Act—and also nearly every type of federal regulation that industry polluters dislike. It will apply to all agencies, not just EPA. It could very well undermine protections for clean drinking water, food safety, workplace safety, internet access, and much more.

And sadly, the Supreme Court is about to hit too close to home again. In October, the court is expected to hear a case that could dramatically limit the types of waters protected by the Clean Water Act. This ruling could remove protections for wetlands and seasonal streams around the Bay. If the Supreme Court does as the real estate development and industry lobbyists have asked in Sackett v. EPA, there’s no guarantee that Baykeeper will have the tools necessary to protect our watershed in the future, at least not at the federal level.

It’s bleak, and I waver between feeling depressed and angered. But as my daughter has heard me advise countless times over the years: We don’t get angry, we get active!

That’s why Baykeeper’s attorneys recently drafted and filed an amicus brief, joining sides with EPA in the Sackett case, that calls on the Supreme Court to protect vital waterways throughout the San Francisco Bay watershed. We’re also advocating before state agencies to make local laws stronger so when the federal government fails us, California laws will still protect our air and water. We’re even developing new legal strategies to hold polluters accountable that don’t rely on federal statutes. And we’re supporting partner causes that protect our right to vote. It matters now more than ever that we all take action to make our democracy stronger.

With your continued activism and support, Baykeeper will turn our anger into action and keep fighting for this beautiful place we call home.

In solidarity,

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Sejal Choksi-Chugh
Executive Director

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