The Supreme Court ruled today, in what amounts to a rebuke of the Bush administration, that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from automobile emissions, and that it has shirked its duty in not doing so.
In a 5-to-4 decision, the court found that the Clean Air Act expressly authorizes the E.P.A. to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, contrary to the E.P.A.’s contention, and that if the agency still insists that it does not want to regulate those emissions, it must give better reasons than the “laundry list” of invalid considerations it has offered so far.
Today’s decision is surely not the last word in the continuing debate over the effects of global warming and what can, or should, be done about it. But it was still highly significant in at least two respects.
First, the majority brushed aside the Bush administration’s assertion that the Clean Air Act does not treat carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases as “pollutants,” and thus does not give the E.P.A. the authority to regulate them.
Secondly, the five justices declared that contrary to the administration, Massachusetts and the 11 other states and various other plaintiffs that sued the E.P.A. do indeed have legal standing to pursue their suit. In order to establish standing, a federal court plaintiff must show that there is an injury that can be traced to the defendant’s behavior, and that the injury will be relieved by the action the lawsuit seeks.