- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

1:28 p.m.

The Supreme Court today ordered the federal government to take a fresh look at regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a rebuke to Bush administration policy on global warming.

In a 5-4 decision, the court said the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.

Greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the landmark environmental law, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion.

The court’s four conservative justices — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — dissented in its first global warming case.

Many scientists believe greenhouse gases, flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, are leading to a warming of the Earth, rising sea levels and other marked ecological changes.

Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are burned. One way to reduce those emissions is to have more fuel-efficient cars.

The decision is expected to boost California’s prospects for gaining EPA approval of its program to limit tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. Federal law gives California the right to seek approval of standards that are stricter than national norms.

The court had three questions before it.

• Do states have the right to sue the EPA to challenge its decision?

• Does the Clean Air Act give the EPA authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases?

• Does EPA have the discretion not to regulate those emissions?

The court said yes to the first two questions. On the third, it ordered EPA to re-evaluate its contention that it has the discretion not to regulate tailpipe emissions. The court said the agency has provided a “laundry list” of reasons, including foreign policy considerations.

The majority said the agency must tie its rationale more closely to the Clean Air Act.

“EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change,” Justice Stevens said. He was joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and the court’s swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The lawsuit was filed by 12 states and 13 environmental groups that had grown frustrated by the Bush administration’s inaction on global warming.

In his dissent, Justice Roberts focused on the issue of whether a party has the right to file a lawsuit.

The court should simply recognize that redress of the kind of grievances spelled out by Massachusetts is the function of Congress and the chief executive, not the federal courts, he said.

His position “involves no judgment on whether global warming exists, what causes it or the extent of the problem,” he said.

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