Federal Court Ruling a Victory for EPA–and the Planet

A third big court ruling this week that you may have overlooked in the drama over the Supreme Court decisions on the Affordable Care Act and Arizona’s immigration law: a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on June 26 upheld the right of the EPA to control greenhouse gases as pollutants and harmful to Americans’ health. Industry groups and 14 states had sued, hoping to not be bound by regulations put in place by the EPA in desperation at Congress’s foot-dragging over any effective climate legislation. But really: if legislators were doing their job in protecting the people, the executive branch would not have had to step in. The brilliance of the EPA’s regulation is revealed in labeling global-warming emissions “pollutants”; the fossil-fuel industry thus became polluters. In more formal language, the basis for the rules that emissions were pollutants and could be controlled is the agency’s finding that “carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions constitute a danger to public health and [can] thus be regulated under the Clean Air Act.” And so by supporting the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions, the court dealt what a New York Times editorial called “a devastating blow to polluters.” Science and rational thought were also victors, as the federal court found that “the agency had based its case on careful research and sound science.”

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