Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Supreme Court Rules in First Global Warming Case

The Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration yesterday for refusing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, siding with environmentalists in the court's first examination of the phenomenon of global warming.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by improperly declining to regulate new-vehicle emissions standards to control the pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming.

"EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. The agency "identifies nothing suggesting that Congress meant to curtail EPA's power to treat greenhouse gases as air pollutants," the opinion continued. ...

The decision in Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al. also reinforced the division on the Supreme Court, with its four liberal members in the majority and its four most conservative members dissenting. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's role as the key justice in this term's 5 to 4 decisions was again on display, as he sided with Stevens, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter.

The case dates from 1999, when the International Center for Technology Assessment and other groups petitioned the EPA to set standards for greenhouse gas emissions for new vehicles. Four years later, the EPA declined, saying that it lacked authority to regulate greenhouse gases and that even if it did, it might not choose to because of "numerous areas of scientific uncertainty" about the causes and effects of global warming. Massachusetts, along with other states and cities, took the agency to court.

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