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This just in: CO2 bad for air

Monday, April 2, 2007

In a huge decision that could force the Bush Administration to take action on global warming, the Supreme Court has ruled that carbon dioxide is air pollution.

What was their first clue?

The Bush EPA's been saying it had no authority over greenhouse gases, since they weren't air pollution. And it's seen California's landmark law to reduce CO2 emissions from autos as a sneaky backdoor way to raise mileage standards. By law, that's the Department of Transportation's job. But the Court quashed the White House's twisted notion that DOT's authority for fuel standards somehow relieved EPA of its obligations to protect public health under the Clean Air Act.

(UPDATE, April 3 – As I expected, the Court's ruling doesn't necessarily mean the Administration will obey the law. President Bush said today that any regulation of auto emissions of greenhouse gases should not hurt the economy or be offset by rising emissions from China or India.)

The White House warned the Court that tighter U.S. auto regulations could "impair the president's ability's to negotiate with 'key developing nations' to reduce emissions." To which Justice Paul Stevens, in the majority opinion, replied that while the president has broad authority in foreign affairs, "that authority does not extend to the refusal to execute domestic laws."

Knowing this president, we'll see about that. The New York Times' Felicity Barringer says that although Stevens' opinion implicity blasted EPA for not regulating carbon emissions, "the Court didn't say you must, but you should."(mp3)

The San Francisco Chronicle's Bob Egelko calls it the Court's most important environmental case in many years. I think so.

Not only does it let California move forward with its law, which takes effect in 2009, it clears the way for other states to take their own steps to regulate global warming pollution. The lawsuit that brought today's ruling was originally filed by Massachusetts, and this week, Maryland's legislature is considering a bill to reduce CO2 emissions 25 percent over the next 10 years.

Just as importantly, it is a sharp rebuke to the Administration's duck-and-coverup approach on global warming. The nation's thinking about global warming is moving rapidly, and the White House is hopelessly behind the curve.

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