The fight against Global Warming had some ups and downs last year. In April, the United States Supreme Court moved the game forward in its decision regarding Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA), only to have the ball brought back in December by the EPA’s failure to authorize California’s regulation of GHG emissions.
In Massachusetts v. EPA, several states, including NJ, sued the EPA over its refusal to regulate Green House Gases (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles. In refusing the petition from private groups, EPA argued that it did not have the authority to regulate GHGs as they were not a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act and, furthermore, the EPA asserted that there were other avenues that were more appropriate to address global warming.
The Supreme Court, however, asserted that GHGs are, in fact, air pollutants and, as such, rejected the EPA’s assertion that it did not have authority to regulate the GHGs being emitted from motor vehicles. The Court noted that the Clean Air Act (CAA) defined air pollutant to be, “any physical, chemical … substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air.” The Court noted that since GHGs were chemical/physical substances that are emitted into the ambient air they are, therefore, pollutants. The Court then directed the EPA to determine whether GHG emissions endanger public health or welfare.
Despite this hopeful start, in December the EPA declined California the right to implement more stringent regulations regarding GHG emissions from motor vehicles (see link). Under the CAA, California has the right to enact more stringent regulations effecting emissions from motor vehicles and, once California receives permission to enact more stringent regulations, other states can adopt the California regulations. New Jersey is one of the states that have promulgated regulations adopting the California regs. The EPA, however, justified their denial of the waiver by claiming that, unlike many other pollutants, GHGs is a “global issue” and not a local issue. Additionally, the EPA found that, since Congress recently passed an increase in fuel efficiency requirements for motor vehicles, there was no longer any need to permit the waiver to California. California and other states, including New Jersey, are currently suing EPA’s denial of the waiver (see link).
Hopefully, 2008 will be a better year for the U.S. efforts to combat Global warming.