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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Supreme Court Win #1: Clean Air Act does give EPA authority to regulate CO2

Yesterday in "Massachusetts v. EPA" the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the EPA can't duck their duty to regulate CO2 based on the flimsy excuse that they were trying to use, that the Clean Air Act doesn't tell them they can. Of course, while the EPA is under Bush or any other Republican administration, they will probably continue to duck their duty anyway, but they'll have to come up with a different excuse now. And in 2009 hopefully we'll have an administration that cares about the environment and people's health enough to appoint functional EPA people for a change.

San Jose Mercury News has the details:

In a 5-4 ruling, the court - taking up global warming for the first time - declared that the federal Clean Air Act clearly allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide as a form of air pollution.

The ruling, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, was a stern rebuke to the Bush administration, which argued the EPA had no authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

"This is probably the most important Supreme Court environmental ruling in history," said Carl Pope, national executive director of the Sierra Club, in San Francisco.

Ray Suarez at NPR interviewed a few knowledgeable folks for their take on it. Marcia Coyle sums up EPA's arguments and the Supreme Court decision:
MARCIA COYLE: Well, EPA really had two arguments. It said first that it didn't believe it had authority under the language of the Clean Air Act to regulate these emissions and said, secondly, even if it did have the authority, it felt it was unwise to do so at this time, because a variety of reasons. There was no clear causal link between the greenhouse gases and global warming, and regulation would interfere with a variety of other federal global warming programs, including the president's approach in treaty negotiations.

RAY SUAREZ: And what did the justices decide?

MARCIA COYLE: The justices rejected all of EPA's arguments, those two, as well as a very important question involving whether the states and the local governments even had what we call "standing" to sue EPA, that is, had the right to go into court and sue EPA.

Christopher Beam at Slate rounds up the analysis of a few bloggers. One happy with the decision predicts further positive effects from this decision:
At Warming Law, a blog started by the Community Rights Council in response to the case, Tim Dowling predicts that the ruling will "affect pending cases … that involve other provisions of the Clean Air Act that use the term 'air pollutant' (most notably, provisions that govern emissions from power plants and other stationary sources)." In addition, he predicts, "the ruling might well prompt the U.S. Congress to act more quickly and more aggressively on comprehensive global warming legislation."

I hope Dowling is right, and it certainly is a win, even if we don't see any positive action for awhile. It's knocked down one more barrier to action, and that's a good thing.

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