Monday, 2 April 2007

Supreme Court tells EPA to do its job, and it should

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can — and should — do its job. The party spearheading the case against the EPA was a collection of environmental groups, states, along with other individuals and groups. (The EPA is a part, like, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security, of the White House.) The Bush administration had argued the EPA should not regulate greenhouse emissions known to cause global warming created by driving a car. Apparently, in their view, protecting the public interest from climate change is pointless — since it isn’t happening and of course it’s not our fault (so they think).

The Bush administration has even brought California to court in the past because of its tough environmental policies on vehicle emissions and clean air. Just because the EPA doesn’t do its job doesn’t mean the states cannot. In addition, that contradicted the federalist stance of many conservative heavyweights associated with and in power in the White House.

The EPA has even refused to mandate an official policy on potentially disastrous effects of too much CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Such gases are so called because of the earth-warming effect they produce, where sunlight is trapped. The court ruled the EPA had no excuse in overlooking greenhouse gases and global warming, on a policy and regulatory level. The EPA has also given plenty of poor excuses for its lack of initiative on an issue deemed so important by the scientific community. This is yet another judicial defeat — albeit a righteous one — for Bush.

This isn’t the first time the Bush administration and US government has disregarded science: evolution, stem cells, and other issues remain and the White House seems to want to tie religion into all of them. Maybe they also don’t think that driving a big SUV releases gases which — when given out in massive amounts — contribute to climate change. Then again in their view global warming isn’t happening. Just like evolution.

On a similar note, the UN is set to release the second in a string of reports this year on climate change. The upcoming one will focus on the impact of such global change. We already know it hurts the poor the most.

I thought it good to include some of the majority and dissenting opinions of the ruling, which delt with both the Clean Air Act and the EPA's regulatory power over emissions in the first Supreme Court ruling on climate change-related issues. Expect more to come; and Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, the conservative pals on the bench, will continue to hide behind their limited judicial power/review ideology.

"EPA's steadfast refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions presents a risk of harm to Massachusetts that is both 'actual' and 'imminent,' " Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority, citing two standards linked to standing.

"EPA identifies nothing suggesting that Congress meant to curtail EPA's power to treat greenhouse gases as air pollutants," Justice Stevens wrote. Instead, the agency resorted to "impermissible considerations" in rejecting the plaintiffs' request to regulate those admissions, the justice wrote.

"Its action was therefore 'arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law,' " Justice Stevens went on. Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joined his decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. dissented, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. The chief justice said his dissent "involves no judgment on whether global warming exists, what causes it, or the extent of the problem."

Not only did Stevens, et al rule against the Bush administration's interpretation of existing pollution legislation, meaning greenhouse gases, in the court's view, is a similar destructive pollutant to that of those highly regulated, but they also slammed the EPA for just not caring about CO2, politics and policy brushed aside.

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