Supreme Court Tells EPA to Regulate Greenhouse Gases

April 03, 2007 11:32 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate automobile greenhouse gas emissions, potentially giving states the right to sue the agency if it fails to act.

30-Second Summary

The United States is the world’s largest emitter of carbon emissions, but according to the Supreme Court the Environmental Protection Agency has the legal power to change that.

In a 5–4 vote, the Court ruled that the EPA’s authority allows them to cap greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The EPA has shunned such responsibility in the past, refusing in 2003 to manage Massachusetts’s car emissions by arguing that the Clean Air Act did not give it the authority to do so.

The Court’s decision refutes the EPA’s prior argument by classifying greenhouse gases as “air pollutants” that could endanger “public health or welfare,” making their regulation the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act.

States will now be able to get federal approval for their automobile emissions caps, a process that has heretofore prevented California and a number of other states from enforcing their regulations. In addition, the ruling will allow states to sue the EPA if they feel the agency is not exerting enough regulatory power.

The decision comes at a pivotal time, as nations around the world examine the effects of higher temperatures on the environment.

Headline Links: A legal precedent and the text of the ruling

Background: The EPA's 2003 refusal to regulate

Reactions: Legal implications, industry responses, and Bush's response

Opinions: What does the ruling mean?

Reference Material: The greenhouse effect, air quality nationwide, and the Clean Air Act

Related Topics: California's lawsuit, UK emissions rise, and the socio-economics of global warming


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