SCOTUS Green Lights the EPA

This could be bigger than it looks.

On Monday, in one of those infamous “5-4” decisions, the Supreme Court signaled something of a change in the weather.  This time, the “five” sided with progressive interests rather than against.

The question was whether or not the (Obama administration) EPA would be allowed to impose regulations controlling greenhouse gasses.  It sharpened the pen of an earlier (2007) decision that reprimanded the (Bush administration) EPA for rejecting a petition from a group of citizens who joined the State of Massachusetts in asking that they be permitted to establish statewide regulations for auto emissions.  In that instance, SCOTUS found that the EPA had improperly rejected the petition:

Instead, EPA rejected the rulemaking petition based on impermissible considerations. Its action was therefore “arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” §7607(d)(9). On remand, EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the statute.

That, too was a 5-4 decision with arguably a progressive outcome, but was cautiously framed around the arbitrary nature of the EPA’s position with regard to the petitioners and carefully avoided the “third rail” of climate science.

While that decision offered no opinion on the scientific validity of human induced climate change, Monday’s decision kind of does, by implication.

The agency made such a finding, saying that “elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere” pose a danger to “current and future generations,” and it set limits on emissions from new vehicles.

The ruling failed to support the “primary rationale” on which the (Obama administration) EPA sought permission to act.  To do so would have had implications far beyond the limited scope of power plant emissions, which were the immediate focus of EPA action.  It can be hoped, though, that this decision will favorably weight future attempts to extend the regulatory arm of the EPA to strictly limit vehicle emissions.

Has a “tipping point” finally been reached, where the science of climate change is poised to leave the arena of political whimsy and join “terrorism” as something both liberals and conservatives can embrace as an actionable threat?

We can only hope so.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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