April 2, 2007: USA Today—Supreme Court: EPA Can Regulate Vehicle Emissions

Will automakers ride roughshod over purple mountains majesty no more? Hummers—and Toyota Tundras—may need much better emission controls in the near future.

Summary: Two questions were at issue in today’s ruling. Does the EPA have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle exhaust? And was the the agency wrong to deny a petition to regulate such emissions? The Bush administration thought not.

Five of nine Supreme Court justices answered with a resounding "yes" on both counts. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, characterized the administration’s claims as "arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law."

"The court said the EPA ignored its statutory mandate and had not provided sufficient grounds for not issuing emissions standards.

The decision was far from unanimous, however:

"The opinion prompted caustic dissents from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. During oral arguments last November, Roberts and Scalia had particularly questioned the dangers of global warming."

The court stopped short of ordering the EPA to regulate automotive emissions. At this point, though, it seems the wise thing would be to bow to scientific consensus and public opinion.

People involved in the nuts and bolts and electrons of the automotive industry—as opposed to those who count the beans—will likely rejoice in secret. Brilliant minds relish a challenge, given the green light.


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