Under the US Clean Air Act, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is authorized to set emission standards for
any air pollutant” from motor vehicles or motor vehicle engines “which in his judgment cause[s], or contribute[s] to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
The EPA was challenged by the Plaintiffs because it disputed whether it had power to set such emission standards.
The parties were:
Petitioners: the states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, the cities of New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the territory of American Samoa, and the organizations Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Center for Technology Assessment, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Respondents: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, National Automobile Dealers Association, Engine Manufacturers Association, Truck Manufacturers Association, CO2 Litigation Group, Utility Air Regulatory Group, and the states of Michigan, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.
The case turned on questions, essentially of power (âlocus standiâ? and statutory interpretation), including
1. The standing of the plaintiffs to bring the case to court.
2. Whether the EPA Administrator had authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other air pollutants associated with climate change under the Clean Air Act.
3. Whether the EPA Administrator could decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations.
The majority opinion of the US Supreme Court found for the petitioners and recognized they had standing. It found the Clean Air Act did give the EPA the authority to regulate motor vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases. On the third question the Court referred the issue back to the EPA for valid justification, finding the EPAâs current view lacking justification.
In typical form SCALIA J dissented. In his view, regardless of the importance of the issue, the Court should not attempt to second guess the view of the executive agency (EPA) in light of its experience and judgment.
This has something familiar about it.
Meanwhile, for an opinion piece on all this look HERE.
For a sombre review of what is at stake see HERE.