Attorney General Brown Sues EPA For Ignoring Supreme Court Mandate

California Progress Report

California Sues Bush EPA to Comply With Year Old Supreme Court Ruling on Regulating Greenhouse Gases

By Frank D. Russo

A year after the US Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA, a case in which California was a lead plaintiff, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and facing defiance, delays, and stonewalling from the Bush administration in complying with that decision, California Attorney General Jerry Brown went to federal court yesterday to force the EPA to release a court-mandated determination that greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare.

California is joined by nineteen states and local governments in this legal action—a petition for a writ of mandamus-- including Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, District of Columbia, City of New York, Mayor and City Council for Baltimore. It was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and asks for a court order that would force the EPA to release its determination of endangerment within sixty days.

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions after making a formal determination that such pollution threatens public health or welfare. The EPA itself described the Court's mandate as follows: "...the EPA must determine...whether greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health or welfare."

In a writ of mandamus filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Brown and seventeen other states and eleven national environmental groups asked for a court order that would force the EPA to release its determination of endangerment within sixty days.

"The EPA said it would take action to regulate greenhouse gases by the end of last year but then broke its word and ignored the Supreme Court's mandate," Attorney General Brown said. "The EPA has rejected the Supreme Court's order, an action which is outrageous and unlawful. We're taking the EPA to court to force it to do its job."

A recent investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform revealed that the EPA had already made its endangerment determination--including an extensive scientific review--and sent it to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final approval. Brown called EPA's inaction "a textbook case of unreasonable delay" because the agency already completed its endangerment determination last year and is simply refusing to release it publicly.

"It is makes absolutely no sense for the EPA to say it needs a year-long public comment period before it can obey the Supreme Court," Brown said. "The EPA has finished its determination and Johnson should keep his promise by releasing the final version immediately."

In a conference call, Brown minced no words, basically accusing the Bush Administration of making a promise to the Detroit auto industry not to take action on tailpipe emissions.

Brown has the full support of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who issued the following statement:

“It has been a full year since the Supreme Court declared that greenhouse gases are pollutants which should be regulated by the federal government, but the U.S. EPA has refused to grant California’s waiver that would allow us and 19 other states to improve our quality of life by setting tougher vehicle emissions levels.

“The authority of states to address greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles has been clearly and unequivocally supported – by the Supreme Court, a federal court decision in Vermont and in December by a federal court here in California. On this issue, the U.S. EPA has failed to lead, it has failed to follow the states’ lead and we are prepared to force it out of the way in order to protect the environment.”

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