The United States Environmental Protection Agency has previously refused to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles. Twelve states and thirteen environmental groups sued the EPA, arguing that it had the authority (and responsibility) to regulate these.
In an important decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 on the following issues:
- Do states have the right to sue the EPA, challenging its position? Yes.
- Does the EPA have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate these emissions? Yes.
- Can the EPA choose not to regulate them? Perhaps, but it must reconsider.
Basically, the ruling states that the reasons the EPA has used to abdicate its responsibilities are varied and irrelevant [my language]; the EPA must reconsider its decision and provide reasons related to the Clean Air Act. The ruling does not go as far as ordering the EPA to act—that’ll be the next battle!
President Bush has admitted that global warming exists, but has resisted taking concrete action. With this ruling (and another one today, involving emissions from older coal plants), the judicial branch and the legislative branch of the U.S. government are becoming increasingly proactive about working to make change. If he does not begin to take some responsibility soon, he will be left standing alone.
Please see CNN and New Scientist for more information.