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U.S. EPA Sued for Ignoring Supreme Court Greenhouse Gas Ruling
WASHINGTON, DC, April 2, 2008 (ENS) - Attorneys general from 17 states, the City of New York, the City of Baltimore, the District of Columbia, and 13 environmental advocacy groups today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals here to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to respond to last year's ruling on greenhouse gas emissions in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA.

That ruling, which the U.S. Supreme Court issued exactly one year ago today, required the EPA to make a decision on whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act. A year later, the EPA has not issued a decision. Today's court filing requests an order requiring the EPA to act within 60 days.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (Photo courtesy Martha Coakley Committee)

"Once again the EPA has forced our hand, which has resulted in our taking this extraordinary measure to fight the dangers of climate change," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. "As the EPA itself has acknowledged, last year's Supreme Court ruling requires it to determine whether greenhouse gases are endangering public health or welfare, and if so to begin regulating them. The EPA's failure to act in the face of these incontestable dangers is a shameful dereliction of duty."

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that - contrary to the agency's claim - the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The court also declared that the agency could not refuse to exercise that authority based on the agency's policy preferences. Instead, the EPA would have to decide, based on scientific information, whether it believed that greenhouse gas emissions were posing dangers to public health or welfare.

According to the petition, after last year's ruling, the EPA publicly made clear its belief that greenhouse gases are in fact endangering public health or welfare.

Once the EPA comes to that judgment, it must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. On multiple occasions, the agency promised that it would respond to the Supreme Court's opinion by issuing an endangerment determination and draft motor vehicle emission standards by the end of last year.

When it recently decided whether California could set its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, the EPA issued detailed findings about the widespread harms that greenhouse gases are causing.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson (Photo courtesy EPA)

For example, Administrator Stephen Johnson specifically found that, "Severe heat waves are projected to intensify in magnitude and duration over portions of the U.S. where these events already occur, with likely increases in mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly, young, and frail."

The EPA denied California's request only on the grounds that the many severe harms that California faced would also afflict other states across the country.

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said, "The EPA said it would take action to regulate greenhouse gases by the end of last year but then broke its word and ignored the Supreme Court's mandate. The EPA has rejected the Supreme Court's order, an action which is outrageous and unlawful. We're taking the EPA to court to force it to do its job."

The petition further asserts that the EPA has already prepared an endangerment determination.

A Congressional investigation conducted by Congressman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform confirmed that the EPA in fact sent its draft endangerment determination and proposed regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget in December 2007.

According to the petition, an investigation conducted by Waxman's committee established that consistent with its announced schedule, the EPA implemented its internal process of drafting an affirmative endangerment determination during the fall of 2007.

Greenhouse gases rise from a California traffic jam. (Photo credit unknown)

The EPA has now declined to issue that proposed endangerment determination, and last week said that it would delay responding to the Supreme Court's opinion until after it conducts a lengthy public comment period later this year to examine policy issues raised by regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

"It is makes absolutely no sense for the EPA to say it needs a year-long public comment period before it can obey the Supreme Court," Brown said. "The EPA has finished its determination and Johnson should keep his promise by releasing the final version immediately."

"The EPA is defying the Supreme Court and endangering our economy, our environment, and our health," said Environmental Defense Fund Deputy General Counsel Vickie Patton. "The law and the science are clear - the EPA must act now."

Joining Massachusetts in today's petition are: the states of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, the City of New York, and the Mayor and City Council for Baltimore.

The environmental groups joining the petition are: Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Center for Technological Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

All of these parties were either petitioners in Massachusetts v. EPA, or joined amicus briefs in support of the petitioners.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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