Supreme Court Rules EPA Must Consider Greenhouse Gas Regulation

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate gases that cause greenhouse warming.

The ruling the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA is one of the most important environmental decisions of recent years, and is a major rebuff to the Bush administration, which has argued that it had no regulatory jurisdiction over emissions that contribute to global warming.Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said:

“The harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized.  Indeed, the NRC (National Research Council) Report itself which EPA regards as an objective and independent assessment of the relevant science, identifies a number of environmental changes that have already inflicted significant harms, including the global retreat of mountain glaciers, reduction in snow-cover extent, the earlier spring melting of rivers and lakes, [and] the accelerated rate of rise of sea levels during the 20th century relative to the past few thousand years …”

The judges found:

“On the merits, the first question is whether .. the Clean Air Act authorizes EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles in the event that it forms a “judgment” that such emissions contribute to climate change.  We have little trouble concluding that it does … EPA has refused to comply with this clear statutory command.  Instead, it has offered a laundry list of reasons not to regulate.”

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Dan Whipple

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