Supreme Court Says EPA Must Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By a slim five to four margin, the U.S. Supreme Court held recently that carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming are "air pollutants" that are within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) power to control under the Clean Air Act, and that the U.S. government has the authority to regulate them. The EPA had previously reasoned that global warming gases such as CO2 did not constitute an "air pollutant" within the meaning of the federal legislation. The Court disagreed, ruling that the Clean Air Act is "sweeping" and "unambiguous" in encompassing greenhouse gases.

"Today, the highest court in the land decided that the Clean Air Act clearly empowers EPA to address the pressing problem of global warming pollution. Unfortunately, EPA has refused to act and swift congressional action will be critical to ensure real progress," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C. (, which was one of the plaintiffs that sued the EPA to enforce the legislation. "The Court did all it can, but if we're really going to fix climate change, Congress has to pass a cap on global warming pollution, and soon."

Looking forward, Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Washington, D.C.) said, "There needs to be a national, federal, economy-wide approach to addressing greenhouse gases. This decision says that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be part of this process." He added, "The Alliance looks forward to working constructively with both Congress and the administration, including EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in developing a national approach."

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that focuses on free enterprise and limited government, decried the ruling, saying that it gives too much power to a bureaucratic organization. "The Court's decision empowers EPA to take control of America's global warming policy. This should certainly be a surprise to Congress, which has been vigorously debating the issue for years," said CEI director of energy and global warming policy Myron Ebell. "For an agency as unaccountable as EPA to be deputized in this way is bad news for the future of our country."

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