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WASHINGTON DC—California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. went to federal court today to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release a court-mandated determination that greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare. Such a determination of endangerment is the first step towards establishing federal controls on greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
“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.”
In a writ of mandamus filed today 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.
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.”
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.”
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said repeatedly, under oath, that he would comply with the Court’s mandate and issue a determination of endangerment by the end of 2007. Last week, Johnson broke that promise by extending the time period another twelve months until President Bush leaves office.
In February, Brown and seventeen other states asked the EPA why it was delaying in issuing its report. In response, Administrator Johnson backtracked on his earlier promise, stating “the Agency does not have a specific timeline for responding to the remand.” The EPA tried to explain its abrupt change of course by pointing to the recent enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, a law which does not change EPA’s duties under the Supreme Court’s decision.
Brown said that the EPA cannot use the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which only improves fuel economy, as an excuse for ignoring its duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA’s obligation to regulate such emissions is wholly independent from the mandate, under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, to promote energy efficiency.
Under Johnson, the EPA has also failed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, ocean-going vessels and non-road vehicles and engines. Brown sued the EPA in January after the agency broke forty years of precedent by rejecting California’s petition to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gases.
Since the beginning of the industrial era, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached their highest point in the last half-million years. Rajendra Pachauri, a scientist who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently said “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
Nineteen states and local governments joining California in filing today’s legal action include: 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.
National and international environmental groups also joining include: Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Center for Technological Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group
All of these parties were either petitioners in Massachusetts v. EPA, or joined amicus briefs in support.