The US Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Monday (in Massachussets vs EPA, a landmark case brought by 12 states and most major environmental organizations) concluded that CO2 is a pollutant under the 1970 Clear Air Act — which requires the EPA to regulate “any air pollutant that may endanger the public welfare” — and therefore subject to federal regulation.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle,
Monday’s decision rejects a 2003 declaration by the Environmental Protection Agency that it lacked authority to regulated greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act — a reversal of the Clinton Admininstration’s position — and said it would not use that authority in any case.
It’s finally clear that the EPA does have the authority. We’ll see whether they use it; “the administration could drag its heels on a decision, hoping to run out the clock until President Bush leaves office,” the Chronicle notes. And we’ll also see whether the states that brought the suit gained the ability to regulate ahead of a reclacitrant federal government. California Attorney General Jerry Brown says yes, the decision “makes it very clear that California has a right to regulate greenhouse gases.” The auto industry, perhaps licking wounds after opposing the challenge, insists the decision authorizes only the EPA, not the states.
But in the absence of decisive action from the Feds, and the rapid awakeing of US business to the economic and strategic challenges that climate change presents (just like blood is thicker than water, money seems to be thicker than ideological loyalty), watch for the plaintiff states to seek waivers from EPA to allow tougher regulation — and for a growing collection of companies to get on with implementing GHG reduction programs, rather than opposing them.
Another data point: we’ve been amazed at the rapidly increasing flow of companies coming to us — not asking us to show them the business case (as they did last year), but asking us to help them figure what to do!