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Global Warming Goes to High Court; Massachusetts Seeks EPA Rule: 'Do Your Job'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Global Warming Goes to High Court; Massachusetts Seeks EPA Rule: 'Do Your Job'


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James R. Milkey, representing 12 states and 13 environmental groups, yesterday called on the Supreme Court to force the federal government to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from new automobiles.

As the court waded into the politically charged issue of global warming for the first time, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia pressed Mr. Milkey to explain when and how greenhouse gases will injure his state.

Mr. Milkey said Massachusetts has 200 miles of coastal land that is being lost to rising seas caused by global warming and that the damage will increase.

"It's not so much a cataclysm as [it is] ongoing harm," he said under questioning by Justice Scalia in a courtroom packed for the case's hour of oral arguments.

Any reduction to the 6 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions caused by vehicles in the United States would help, Mr. Milkey said, because "once they are emitted, the laws of physics take over" and damage is inevitable.

Although there is "something of a consensus" that global warming is occurring, Justice Scalia said, there is no consensus on how much of the problem is caused by human pollutants.

The states say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to fulfill its role of regulating car emissions under the Clean Air Act of 1970.

The Bush administration has resisted such regulations, contending that the EPA has no such authority under the Clean Air Act. Backers of the administration's stance say the regulations would put U.S. industry at a competitive risk.

Justice Department Deputy Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre representing the EPA, the car-manufacturing state of Michigan and eight other states said there is "substantial scientific uncertainty" about global climate change.

He said he knows of no studies suggesting that regulating this "minuscule" percent of greenhouse gases would have any effect.

Justice Steven G. Breyer appeared unimpressed.

"Why is it unreasonable to go to an agency and say, 'Now you do your part'?" he asked.

Outside the court, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said the law is clear and that the EPA is refusing to do its job.

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Global Warming Goes to High Court; Massachusetts Seeks EPA Rule: 'Do Your Job'
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