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Hippies have successfully harshed the US government's mellow by telling the Feds to get to work.

A 5-4 Supreme Court decision today in Massachusetts v EPA rules the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to issue regulations aimed at reducing global climate change. The EPA was unsuccessful convincing the court such actions exceed its authority. The court's ruling stands as a major blow to the Bush administration.

The decision was split between the court's liberal and conservative judges, with Justice Anthony Kenndey providing the swing vote.

Starched shirts in 12 states lead by Massachusetts and 14 environmental groups first filed suit in 2003 claiming the EPA has avoided its responsibility given to the agency under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Massachusetts alleged that rising sea levels caused by global warming have caused and will continue to cause harm to the state.

The majority's decision written by Justice John Stevens determined the complaint is valid. "The risk of catastrophic harm, though remote, is nevertheless real. That risk would be reduced to some extent if petitioners received the relief they seek."

The ruling, however, merely orders the agency to "reconsider" its position on regulations. Whether the decision has any teeth is yet to be determined.

Under the microscope is section 202 of the act which states:

The [EPA] Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emissions of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare...

The EPA had argued that because regulating greenhouse gases would have major economic and political repercussions Congress would have told them to act upon it specifically if the agency was supposed to address it.

EPA followed that greenhouse gases should not even be considered "air pollutants." It reasoned that if carbon dioxide were an air pollutant, the only way to reduce tailpipe emissions would be increasing fuel economy — which has already been addressed by Congress — making any action superfluous.

Finally, the EPA argued that a link between greenhouse gases and global warming "cannot be unequivocally established."

Despite this argument, a Register investigation into the EPA Kids page (hey, balloons and clowns make things easier to understand) reveals a different story.

"When Do You Send Greenhouse Gases into the Air?

Whenever you...

  • Watch TV
  • Use the Air Conditioner
  • Turn on a Light
  • Use a Hair Dryer
  • Ride a Car
  • ... you are helping to send greenhouse gas into the air."

It continues to teach children:

...if the greenhouse effect becomes stronger, it could make the Earth warmer than usual. Even a little extra warming may cause problems for humans, plants, and animals.

Ten states and six automobile trade groups sided with EPA in the case.

The court's dissenting opinion largely weighed the validly of Massachusetts's claims of damage in loss of coastal land.

"The realities make it pure conjecture," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, "to suppose that EPA regulation of new automobile emissions will likely prevent the loss of Massachusetts coastal land." ®

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