The Office of the Attorney General is a leading advocate in the fight to push the federal government to seriously address the real and growing problem of climate change.
Massachusetts, et al, v. EPA
On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in this landmark case - its first ever involving climate change.
In this case, Massachusetts , et al. v. EPA, a coalition of 12 states, along with three major cities, American Samoa, and many environmental groups, challenged the federal Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. EPA had concluded that it had no authority under existing law to regulate greenhouse gases, and that, for a variety of policy reasons, it would not use that authority even if it possessed it.
The Supreme Court ruled that EPA does have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The Court also held that the agency could not refuse to use that authority based on the agency's policy preferences. Instead, the EPA would have to decide, based on the science, whether it believed that greenhouse gas emissions were posing dangers to public health or welfare. If the agency determined that endangerment was occurring, the agency would have to start the process of setting emission standards for greenhouse gases. In late 2007, EPA officials sent a proposed endangerment determination to the White House as an e-mail attachment, but White House officials refused to open the document, and former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson refused repeated requests to make the document public.
After a year of inaction by the Bush administration, the AG's office asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to order the EPA to move ahead with greenhouse gas regulation. This mandamus petition was denied by the court in 2008. However, we are hopeful that with the Obama administration's appointment of a new EPA Administrator, the regulation of greenhouse gases will be a high priority. The AG's office, in conjunction with 19 other cities and states, has written a letter to the EPA Administrator to urge her to make the endangerment determination as quickly as possible.
The AG's Role in Climate Change Cases Across the Nation
On February 29, 2008, the EPA denied a request from California for a waiver to enforce motor vehicle emissions standards that would significantly reduce greenhouse gases. This denial marks the first time the EPA has ever denied a waiver to California under the Clean Air Act, and if this denial stands, Massachusetts will not be allowed to enforce these same standards. The Massachusetts AG's office, as part of a coalition of 18 states, is contesting EPA's denial of the waiver. This case, California , et al. v. EPA, is currently being reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the future looks especially promising for higher state emissions standards, because on January 26, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order directing the EPA to reconsider their denial of a waiver to California.
Visit the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website to learn more about what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is doing to address climate change, and what you can do to help.