In one of the most important environmental cases ever to come before the U.S.
Supreme Court, climate change and the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions
will be ruled upon by the nation's highest court for the first time. In essence,
the case will put the evidence for climate change "on trial" to determine
whether the available data are enough to say that CO2 emissions pose a threat to
the public's wellbeing. The case is Massachusetts vs. EPA, 05-1120. Essentially
two questions are at issue: can the U.S. government's Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) regulate CO2, and if it can, is it required to. The Clean Air Act
mandates the EPA to regulate emissions from mobile sources that "cause, or
contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger
public health or welfare." A later section of the law defines welfare to include
weather and climate effects.
The case turns on whether the U.S. EPA has the authority under the 36-year-old
Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. Vehicle tailpipe
emission standards are the main point of contention. California's effort to
regulate automobile tailpipe emissions, adopted by 11 other states, is under the
court's microscope. Last year, a group of 12 US states and several non-profit
environmental groups led by Massachusetts sued the EPA, claiming that this law
obligates the EPA to regulate cars' CO2 emissions. California has issued its own
rules that would force car makers to improve vehicle mileage, and 10 other
states have followed suit. The case also is expected to define EPA authority to
regulate power plant and other industrial emissions. The EPA maintains it has no
authority under the Clean Air Act to do so, and even if it had the ability,
regulations are inappropriate. It favors, instead, national and international
"voluntary partnerships" over mandatory rules covering domestic industries.
The court's decision which is expected in June 2007, with oral arguments
scheduled as soon as late November or early December of this year, could hasten U.S.
mitigation of greenhouse-gas emissions - or bring action to a disappointing
halt. If victorious, the Supreme Court could send the matter back to the EPA
with orders to take up global warming in a way that would lead to a set of rules
mandating emission cuts. Surprisingly it is not only environmentalists that
desire a "yes" answer, as many economic sectors desire consistent greenhouse gas
It is highly unusual to target the U.S. Supreme Court with an email protest
campaign. But as with the Civil Rights movement of the past, the issue of human caused climate change is so important and fraught with political deadlock that we must call upon the Court to not only heed the strong science and law, but if necessary, to "legislate from the bench" and provide clear guidance on this life and Earth threatening measure. By signing the petition
below asking that carbon be regulated by the U.S. government as a pollutant, you
are sending a few emails to Supreme Court related entities, and all the
signatures are being compiled as a petition to be mailed to the Supreme Court
(thus the need for addresses for added legitimacy).
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Will this institution decide the fate of the Earth?
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