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The Hits Just Keep on Coming

 Question

1) May the EPA decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not enumerated in the Clean Air Act?

2) Does the Clean Air Act give the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases?

Conclusion

No and yes. By a 5-4 vote the Court reversed the D.C. Circuit and ruled in favor of Massachusetts. The opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens held that Massachusetts, due to its "stake in protecting its quasi-sovereign interests" as a state, had standing to sue the EPA over potential damage caused to its territory by global warming. The Court rejected the EPA's argument that the Clean Air Act was not meant to refer to carbon emissions in the section giving the EPA authority to regulate "air pollution agent[s]". The Act's definition of air pollutant was written with "sweeping," "capacious" language so that it would not become obsolete. Finally, the majority ruled that the EPA was unjustified in delaying its decision on the basis of prudential and policy considerations. The Court held that if the EPA wishes to continue its inaction on carbon regulation, it is required by the Act to base the decision on a consideration of "whether greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change." Chief Justice Roberts's dissenting opinion argued that Massachusetts should not have had standing to sue, because the potential injuries from global warming were not concrete or particularized (individual and personal). Justice Scalia's dissent argued that the Clean Air Act was intended to combat conventional lower-atmosphere pollutants and not global climate change.http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2006/2006_05_1120/

A
ccording to an editorial in today's New York Times, the Bush Administration and the EPA have chosen to ignore the Supreme Court. 

The guiding intelligence behind the master plan has been Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s point man, in turn, has been Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was Mr. Johnson who refused to grant California a normally routine waiver that would have allowed it to impose its own greenhouse gas standards on cars and trucks. It was Mr. Johnson who was trotted out to explain why the administration could not possibly fulfill the Supreme Court’s mandate before leaving office.

And it was Mr. Johnson, in one final burst of negativity, who declared last week that his agency was under no obligation to even consider greenhouse gas emissions when deciding whether to allow a new coal-fired power plant to go forward.  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/25/opinion/25thu1.html?_r=1

Because our system is slow moving, we have had to rely upon the assumption that one branch of government will honor the authority of another branch.   However, the Bush Administration is not obeying the authority of the Judicial Branch.

Furthermore the EPA is charged to "...regulate chemicals and protect human health by safeguarding the natural environment..."

This administration has made the EPA a political division of the government, when logic dictates that they should be a watchdog group.

 

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