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News of the Day ... In Perspective


Supreme Court rules that building block for all life is a “pollutant”

In Massachusetts v. EPA, five Supreme Court justices have overruled the executive branch and Congress in a decision declaring that carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” are “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.

The decision paves the way for environmental radicals to get activist judges to impose rules that Congress has not legislated and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused to issue.

The EPA has maintained that it does not have the right to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a number of environmental groups filed suit.

While the suit does not force the EPA to issue rules on motor-vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide, it will almost certainly face further litigation if it fails to do so. The Justices declared that the EPA must provide a sound scientific rationale if it declines to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Twelve states, including California, have already proposed their own emissions limits. California passed legislation, but the governors of Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington are trying to impose California-like rules by executive order. It is not yet clear whether they have the lawful authority to do so. If the rules are not nationwide in scope, some businesses could attempt to escape the economic costs of stringent rules by moving out of state.

Three University of Arizona scientists and a law professor, are declaring victory. With 15 other scientists, they filed an amicus brief arguing that the scientific evidence for human-caused global warming was clear (Arizona Daily Star 4/3/07).

It took some legal acrobatics to get the Court to recognize the standing of a state to sue the EPA to enforce regulations that don’t exist, writes Max Schulz of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. It ruled that the prospect of rising sea levels due to global warming posed a risk of catastrophic harm, and that Massachusetts deserved special deference as a sovereign state.

Schulz argues that this turns federalism on its head. Previous rulings protected state sovereignty by overturning federal regulations that overreached (“Supreme Court Goes Nuclear,” TCSDaily.com 4/5/07). Instead of protecting states against imposition of federal rules, this decision enables a state to force a federal agency to impose one state’s desires on all other “sovereign” states.

In agreement with Al Gore, Justice Stevens confidently proclaimed that carbon dioxide is “the most important greenhouse gas” (National Center for Public Policy press release 4/2/07). [Actually, water vapor is the most important and most plentiful greenhouse gas, but neither Massachusetts nor the EPA can do anything about it.]

Although the case concerned only automotive emissions, it is widely considered a stalking horse for regulating all greenhouse gas emissions. Coal-fired power plants, which generate 52 percent of the nation’s electricity, are one of the biggest potential targets.

One of the few CEOs “brave enough to challenge the militant climate control movement that threatens the future of America’s economy” is Bob Murray, founder of Murray Energy Corporation. Democrats tried to stop his testimony before the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee and relented only when he was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and the Bloomberg News.

Rationing the use of coal is part of an elitist, ill-conceived “global goofiness” campaign that will destroy the lives of thousands of Americans, Murray stated. Moreover, the proposed caps and controls will do little to affect climate (New York Sun 4/3/07).

Methods recommended by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants and inject them into the ground would increase electricity prices by 20 to 25 percent (Washington Times 4/4/07).

After a winter that brought snow and record heating bills to Tucson, Arizona, utilities are enforcing earlier shut-offs and deposits for residents late in paying their bills. More than twice as many customers are projected to have their gas shut off this year compared to last (Arizona Daily Star 3/20/07).

Whatever the Supreme Court justices or University of Arizona professors think of Al Gore’s scary global warming scenario, he is not going unchallenged. William Gray, America’s most reliable hurricane forecaster, called Gore “a gross alarmist” who is “doing a great disservice and doesn’t know what he is talking about” (Cain Burdeau, Associated Press 4/7/07).

Gore has refused to debate those who do not believe global climate change is a crisis, writes Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute, although he is “getting hundreds of millions of dollars of free publicity from the press and from environmental groups.” Ads will be run in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal challenging Gore to debate Lord Monckton of Brenchley (Heartland Institute 4/3/07), and hundreds are signing a petition urging Gore to debate.

But why should there be a debate? Is the issue not moot, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken?


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