The regulatory wars over climate change (aka global warming) inched up a notch Monday as the US Supreme Court (5-4) told the US Environmental Protection Agency that its decisions for setting regulations on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases must be "grounded" in statute and that it has the authority to regulate automobile emissions of these gases. (tip).
In 2003, EPA said it did not have the authority to regulate CO2 emissions from cars. Eleven east and west coast states are part of a coalition led by Massachusetts, which filed the initial case and then an appeal of a lower court ruling in March 2006. Eleven heartland states support EPA's refusal to regulate auto emissions.
Lyle Denniston at the SCOTUS Blog calls this the "most important environmental ruling in years."
Relying primarily on a 1907 ruling (Georgia v. Tennnessee Copper Co.), the Court said it was noteworthy that the key party challenging EPA on the issue was a sovereign state. The Court quoted from that opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: "The state...has the last word as to whether its mountains shall be stripped of their forests and its inhabitants shall breathe pure air." Congress, the Court said, has ordered EPA to protect Massachusetts and others by laying down standards to regulate air pollutants...
What EPA thus must do next is to analyze the scientific data to determine whether greenhouse gases are a "danger" to the global environment. "We need not and do not reach the question whether on remand EPA must make an endangerment finding, or whether policy concerns can inform EPA's actions in the event that it makes such a finding...We hold only that EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the statute" -- the Clean Air Act, the majority said.
Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion in Massachusetts v. EPA, 05-1120. Unsurprisingly, four conservative justices dissented: Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Roberts argued that the states did not have "standing" to sue, but the majority did not agree with him. (tip)
Last May, a group of scientists filed a brief in the case, claiming that a federal appeals court "misinterpreted science and the law when it ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have to regulate greenhouse gases produced by cars," such as CO2 emissions.
Cars are a major source of CO2 -- accounting for about 20 percent of CO2 emissions, according to one estimate. Power plants are a larger source, at about 40 percent, but are clearly regulated because they are a "point" source of pollution. Cars are considered "non point" sources because they are not fixed geographically.
EPA has fought similar battles over point and non-point source water pollutants (and polluters).
New Source Review Case Over-Turned
In another environmental case, Environmental Defense Fund v. Duke Energy Corp. (05-848), the Court overruled the District Court. In 2005, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals granted North Carolina Duke Energy the right to increase total air emissions as part of "new source review." Traditionally, when a plant is modernized or expanded, EPA requires a reduction in total emissions. In this case, the Appeals Court ruled that the power company only had to reduce its per hour emissions.
The Supreme Court upheld the position that changes in power plant air pollution emissions "must be done only with a permit if there is an annual increase in emissions."See
- An Inconvenient Truth (ClimateCrisis.net)
- Big Business, Meet Global Warming
- Global Warming to Cause 50 Million Refugees by 2010
- Greenland Glaciers Melting Faster Than Predicted
- The Truth About Global Warming
- View Ads from CEI
- What Causes Global Warming