Brief Filed Today by NRDC, Others, in Run-up to Oral Arguments

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 31, 2006) -- Global warming pollution is nearing its day in America's highest court. A brief filed today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and many others signifies the next step towards oral arguments before the Supreme Court, expected this November or December. This follows an historic deal reached yesterday between California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his state's legislature that all but ensures passage of a landmark global warming bill sometime today.

The case, Massachusetts v. EPA, will determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide-the main cause of global warming-from motor vehicles. It will also rule on whether EPA can avoid such regulation in favor of "policy preferences", such as voluntary action. NRDC and the co-petitioners will argue that EPA does have this authority.

"When it comes to global warming pollution, this is just plain English and common sense," said Dr. Daniel Lashof, science director for NRDC's (Natural Resources Defense Council) Climate Center, one of the petitioners. "Carbon dioxide is an air pollutant and curbing the pollution that causes global warming is EPA's job under the Clean Air Act."

NRDC is joined in the suit by Sierra Club, 12 states (CA, CT, IL, MA, ME, NJ, NM, NY, OR, VT and WA), Baltimore, New York City, Washington, D.C., and numerous other environmental groups and non-profits. Several amici briefs have also been filed by businesses like Aspen Skiing Company, Entergy, Calpine, as well as four former EPA administrators, Madeleine Albright, and many others.

Administration Claims Do Not Hold Up

Under current administration policy, the EPA claims heat-trapping emissions like carbon dioxide don't meet the Clean Air Act definition of "air pollutant" and cannot be curbed under that law. The EPA position reverses the agency's earlier interpretation of the law, and does not hold up under scrutiny:

  • The Clean Air Act says an "air pollutant" is any "physical, chemical, biological, [or] radioactive substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air."

  • The Clean Air Act authorizes 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."

California Legislation Leading the Way

As leaders in Washington have dragged their feet - or, in the case of the administration, directly opposed - passing effective legislation to combat global warming, states have taken the lead. California is expected to take a huge step forward in that leadership role today with the anticipated passage of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act.

An agreement reached yesterday between Governor Schwarzenegger and the California legislature paves the way for the bill to start cutting global warming pollution. AB 32 would limit the state's global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and institute a mandatory emissions reporting system to monitor compliance. It also would allow for market mechanisms to provide incentives to businesses to reduce emissions while safeguarding local communities.

"This is history in the making," said Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "The Global Warming Solutions Act is the mostly closely watched environmental bill in the nation for good reason: where California goes, others follow. We're at a turning point in the fight against global warming."