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. Environmentalists Hail US Supreme Court Ruling As Bush Says Issue Serious

Led by Massachusetts, a dozen states along with several US cities and environmental groups went to the courts to try to force the agency to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide emissions after it refused to do so. The Supreme Court said "EPA's steadfast refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions presents a risk of harm to Massachusetts that is both 'actual' and 'imminent.'" Massachusetts argued that it risked losing more than 4.5 meters (15 feet) of land all along its coastline if the sea level should rise 30 centimeters (one foot).
by Fanny Carrier
Washington (AFP) April 02, 2007
Environmentalists hailed a US Supreme Court ruling that the government has the power to regulate greenhouse gases, as a watershed decision in fighting global warming. In a sharply divided judgment, the court ruled Monday that greenhouse gases are pollutants, and so the federal Environmental Protection Agency was wrong to say it had no mandate to regulate such emissions.

The decision dealt a new blow to the administration of President George W. Bush, which is steadfast in refusing any limits on US industry or on its gas-guzzling cars, arguing it could hurt the country's economy.

"Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of 'air pollutant,' we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles," the court ruled.

Led by Massachusetts, a dozen states along with several US cities and environmental groups went to the courts to try to force the agency to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide emissions after it refused to do so.

"The harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized," said justice John Paul Stevens in the ruling which won five votes in favor to four against.

"EPA's steadfast refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions presents a risk of harm to Massachusetts that is both 'actual' and 'imminent.'"

Environmental campaigners, who have been fighting for greater regulations in a nation which accounts for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, hailed Monday's ruling, as did a handful of politicians.

"It is a watershed moment in the fight against global warming," said Josh Dorner, spokesman for the Sierra Club environmental group.

"This is a total repudiation of the refusal of the Bush administration to use the authority he has to meet the challenge posed by global warming," he added.

It also "sends a clear signal to the market that the future lies not in dirty, outdated technology of yesterday, but in clean energy solutions of tomorrow like wind, solar," he added.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the administration and EPA would have to "analyze" the decision and denied ever contesting that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.

Bush is strongly opposed to Kyoto's approach of binding cuts, also called caps, in emissions and has instead promoted voluntary action, backed by some incentives for cleaner energy sources and gains in energy efficiency.

At a November hearing, Massachusetts argued that it risked losing more than 4.5 meters (15 feet) of land all along its coastline if the sea level should rise 30 centimeters (one foot).

But the Bush administration, backed by nine states and several auto manufacturers, urged the court not to intervene, arguing that if the situation were so dire it could not be solved by a simple legal decision.

It further argued that reducing emissions from new US motor vehicles would have only a minor effect on global climate change.

"While it may be true that regulating motor-vehicle emissions will not by itself reverse global warming, it by no means follows that we lack jurisdiction to decide whether EPA has a duty to take steps to slow or reduce it," the court ruled.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose state is among several to have already acted independently to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, said he was "very encouraged" by the ruling.

Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the decision "rejects the Bush administration's 'do nothing' approach to the problem," while fellow candidate, Senator Barack Obama, said that "after six years of inaction and denial our government must take bold action to save our planet."

While the court's decision is unlikely to change US policy, it has ramifications on several other ongoing issues, such as the agency's refusal to regulate emissions from electricity plants which produce some 40 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions. Motor vehicles are responsible for just 20 percent.

earlier related report
Washington (AFP) April 3 - President George W. Bush said he took climate change very seriously Tuesday, a day after the US Supreme Court ruled the government must regulate greenhouse gases, seen by analysts as a potential watershed in fighting global warming.

A sharply divided court ruled Monday that greenhouse gases are pollutants, and so the federal Environmental Protection Agency was wrong to say it had no mandate to regulate them.

The decision dealt a new blow to Bush's administration, which has been steadfast in refusing any limits on US industry or on its gas-guzzling cars, arguing it could hurt the country's economy.

"The decision (of) the Supreme Court we take very seriously. It's the new law of the land," Bush told reporters.

He insisted that "I've taken this issue very seriously. I have said that it is a serious problem. I recognize that man is contributing greenhouse gases."

But Bush argued that "anything that happens cannot hurt economic growth. I care about the working people of the country but also because in order to solve the greenhouse gas issue over a longer period of time, it's going to require new technologies, which tend to be expensive."

Bush said that "whatever we do, it must be in concert with what happens internationally. Because we could pass any number of measures that are now being discussed in the Congress, but unless there is an accord with China, China will produce greenhouse gases that will offset anything we do in a brief period of time.

He added that it was key to ensure that China and India, are a part of "a rational solution."

Bush is strongly opposed to Kyoto's approach of binding cuts, also called caps, in emissions and has instead promoted voluntary action, backed by some incentives for cleaner energy sources and gains in energy efficiency.

While the court's decision is unlikely to change US policy, it has ramifications on several other ongoing issues, such as the agency's refusal to regulate emissions from electricity plants which produce some 40 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions. Motor vehicles are responsible for just 20 percent.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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