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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Supreme Court Rules Government Authorized to Curb Vehicle Global Warming Pollution

By ruling today that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants from cars and trucks, the US Supreme Court "came down on the side of common sense," according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The case, Massachusetts v. EPA, was filed by Massachusetts and 11 other states, a number of cities, as well as environmental and science organizations, including UCS.

"The Supreme Court came down today on the side of common sense," said Alden Meyer, policy director at UCS. "The language of the Clean Air Act clearly includes carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions as pollutants, and it's the EPA's job to protect the public from them. The Bush administration wasted six years hiding behind this indefensible position, and we don't have time to waste. They're literally fiddling around while the planet is burning.

"We have the technology today to dramatically reduce tailpipe pollution, so it's time to bench the lawyers and bring in the engineers," he added. "The federal government should join the dozen states that have passed laws curbing vehicle global warming pollution."

The Bush administration had argued that global warming emissions such as carbon dioxide do not meet the Clean Air Act's definition of an "air pollutant" and therefore cannot be regulated. That position contradicts the EPA's previous interpretation of the law. The Clean Air Act, however, states that an air pollutant is any "physical, chemical, biological (or) radioactive substance or matter [that] is emitted or otherwise enters the ambient air."

Moreover, the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to regulate any pollutant that the agency determines to "cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The act specifically defines "welfare" to include adverse effects on "weather" and "climate."

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