Environmental Protection Agency Ignores Supreme Court Ruling on Regulating Greenhouse Gases
Attorney General Hardy Myers today joined Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Attorneys General from 15 other states and the District of Columbia, the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, the City Solicitor of Baltimore, and 13 environmental advocacy groups to petition the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to respond to last year's landmark ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. That ruling, which the U.S. Supreme Court issued exactly one year ago today, required EPA to make a decision on whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act. A year later, EPA has not issued a decision. Today's court filing, known as a Petition for Mandamus, requests an order requiring EPA to act within 60 days.
"We cannot wait any longer for the EPA to perform its duty as declared one year ago by the U.S. Supreme Court," stated Myers. "We face no other responsible option, in terms of serving the public interest, but to petition the court," he added.
In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that - contrary to the agency's claim - the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Court also declared that the agency could not refuse to exercise that authority based on the agency's policy preferences. Instead, the EPA would have to decide, based on scientific information, whether it believed that greenhouse gas emissions were posing dangers to public health or welfare.
According to the petition after last year's ruling, EPA publicly made clear its belief that greenhouse gases were in fact endangering public health or welfare. Once EPA comes to that judgment, it must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. On multiple occasions, the agency promised that it would respond to the Supreme Court's opinion by issuing an endangerment determination and draft motor vehicle emission standards by the end of last year.
When it recently decided whether California could set its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, the EPA issued detailed findings about the widespread harms that greenhouse gases are causing. For example, the EPA Administrator specifically found that "[s]evere heat waves are projected to intensify in magnitude and duration over portions of the U.S. where these events already occur, with likely increases in mortality and morbidity especially among the elderly, young, and frail." The EPA denied California's request only on the grounds that the many severe harms that California faced would also afflict other states across the country.
The petition further asserts that the EPA has already prepared an endangerment determination. According to the petition, an investigation conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform established that, consistent with its announced schedule, the EPA implemented its internal process of drafting an affirmative endangerment determination during the fall of 2007 and that the EPA in fact sent its draft endangerment determination and proposed regulations to the Office of Budget and Management in December 2007.
The EPA has now declined to issue that proposed endangerment determination, and it last week said that it would delay responding to the Supreme Court's opinion until after it conducts a lengthy public comment period later this year to examine policy issues raised by regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
"Oregon is considered a leader among states in combating global warming, thanks to the efforts of Governor Kulongoski," stated Myers. " Oregon will continue its leadership role, including the effort to compel the EPA to carry out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act."
Joining Oregon and Massachusetts in today's Petition for Mandamus are the states of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, City of New York, the Mayor and City Council for Baltimore, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Center for Technological Assessment, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. All of these parties were either petitioners in Massachusetts v. EPA or joined amicus briefs in support of the petitioners.