Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Supreme Court and Climate Change

The Supreme Court this morning takes up the case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (Docket No. 05-1120). In 2003, EPA decided that, under the Clean Air Act, it is not required set motor vehicle emissions standards for carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydroflourocarbons, which are considered causes of climate change. The State of Massachusetts is petitioning the Court to send the question back to EPA with instructions to interpret the Clean Air Act to include consideration of climate change in setting emissions standards.
The entire question of climate change is not being argued today. Instead, the Court is considering two relatively narrow questions:
1. Whether the EPA Administrator may decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not enumerated in section 202(a)(1).
2. Whether the EPA Administrator has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other air pollutants associated with climate change under section 202(a)(1).
EPA argues (1) the petitioners lack standing, meaning they haven't established that they will be harmed by the decision, (2) EPA "lacks authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions" in this case, and (3) EPA has the discretion under the Clean Air Act to decide not to act to control greenhouse gas emissions.
The petitioners argue (1) EPA erred in concluding that carbon dioxide and other emissions that cause climate change are not pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and (2) EPA erred in concluding that it had the regulatory lattitude to decline to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
On March 14, 2001 Bush announced that he would not seek to regulate carbon dioxide, two weeks after EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman voiced the administration's intent to work within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol. Whitman had to eat her words in this announcement:
The President has been clear that the Administration does not believe the government should impose mandatory carbon dioxide emissions reductions on power plants at a time when the cost of energy is soaring in this nation.
Actually, the Bush-Cheney 2000 website provides us the transcript of a speech on September 29, 2000, in which Bush said he would regulate carbon dioxide:
With the help of Congress, environmental groups and industry, we will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time.
It took Bush all of 54 days after taking office to break that pledge, which is why we now find the issue before the Supreme Court.
The American Bar Association posts the legal briefs presented to the Court in the current term.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I heard parts of the oral arguments on NPR and the conservative justices are f'ing LOSERS!!!

Unreal. They are partisan and doctrinaire about global warming. GLOBAL WARMING for godsake!

8:55 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger Coeruleus said...

Scalia's looking for a cataclysm before seeing the need to act.

By that measure, only few of the clean air act pollutants could get regulated: NOx, SOx? Who cares about a few trees dying of acid rain, there's no cataclysm there!

12:46 PM, November 30, 2006  

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