Massachusetts Attorney General Coakley Submits States' Comments in Response to the EPA's Endangerment Determination on Greenhouse Gases
"We commend the EPA for issuing this historic proposal and encourage the agency to take action in the next few months consistent with these findings. In the face of the compelling body of scientific evidence supporting an endangerment finding, this long-overdue proposal constitutes a significant and meaningful first step towards regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act," said Attorney General Coakley.
The EPA expressly characterized their proposed endangerment finding as a direct response to the petition for rulemaking that was submitted as part of Massachusetts v. EPA. The comments submitted by the 15 government agencies reinforce the EPA's findings, and strongly support the EPA's express recognition that greenhouse gases pose serious health risks to the public and that the consequences of climate change are undeniable. The coalition also urges the EPA to continue to carefully think through the ramifications of defining the "pollutant" of concern as a collective class of the six identified greenhouse gases, and suggests that the agency give further attention to the possibility of a hybrid definition, combining both a collective definition with a list of the specific pollutants that were the focus of the endangerment determination, and recommends that the EPA should consider the implications this definition would have on future regulatory decisions under other programs in case it should decide in the future to take action under those programs.
The EPA announced its proposal in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, holding that the EPA could not avoid deciding whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare by raising concerns as to the impact its decision may have on the economy, or on the United States' dealings with foreign countries. Instead, the Agency was required to restrict its consideration to the issues identified in the Clean Air Act. The Agency published its proposal in April, allowing 60 days for comments.
Given the extensive body of scientific analysis of climate change and the role of human activity in bringing it about, coupled with the strong consensus among scientists that human activities, especially activities such as combustion of fossil fuels, play a significant part, the EPA's determination that there is a high probability that such activities are endangering human health and welfare by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is well justified.
On April 2, 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts and eleven other states in Massachusetts v. EPA, marking the first Supreme Court case ever involving global warming. The ruling was 5-4 with the majority opinion authored by Justice Stevens. The Court ruled that the EPA has existing authority under the Federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. Greenhouse gas pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, cause the warming of the earth's atmosphere. The EPA previously refused to regulate such gases, arguing it lacked statutory authority. The Court also concluded that the EPA's grounds for refusing to regulate greenhouse gases were legally insufficient, and directed the agency to reconsider.
Joining the comments with Massachusetts today were the States of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and New York City.