By Steve Milloy
June 22, 2011, Washington Times
The Supreme Court dealt Al Gore, the Environmental Protection Agency and other believers in alarmist climate science a surprising and severe blow this week. In its June 20 decision on American Electric Power v. Connecticut et al., the court ruled that the mere existence of EPA regulatory authority over greenhouse-gas regulations pre-empted lawsuits against coal-burning utilities on the grounds that the emissions constitute a public nuisance.
That decision wasn’t all that surprising as the common law doctrine of nuisance is more typically applied to local cases of noxious odors and noise as opposed to emissions of colorless, odorless and tasteless greenhouse gasses, which are global in nature. Even alarmist science believer and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney knows that it’s called “global warming,” not “America warming.”
The startling part of the decision, however, is that the court quietly but clearly backed away from alarmist climate “science.”
In its 2007 decision Massachusetts v. EPA that was authored by the very liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, a bare majority of the court (all the liberals plus Justice Anthony Kennedy) embraced Al Gore-type climate alarmism in ruling that the EPA could regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Justice Stevens wrote: “The harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized. The Government’s own objective independent assessment of the relevant science and a strong consensus among qualified experts indicate that global warming threatens, inter alia, a precipitate rise in sea levels … severe and irreversible changes to natural ecosystems, a significant reduction in … winter snowpack … with direct and important economic consequences, and an increase in the spread of disease and the ferocity of weather events.”
But what a difference a science scandal apparently makes. In its first climate decision following the 2009 Climategate scandal and its progeny – i.e., Glaciergate, Rainforestgate, Pachaurigate, NASAgate and other climate science-related scandals – the court retreated to neutrality on climate science.
Writing for an essentially unanimous court (Justice Sonia Sotomayor recused herself because she was part of a lower-court ruling on the case), the ultra-liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated, “The Court, we caution, endorses no particular view of the complicated issues related to carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.”
The court’s plainly written, jaw-dropping about-face is hidden in a footnote and so hasn’t been reported in media accounts of the decision – but it is of significant consequence.
Climate alarmists can no longer claim that the Supreme Court has validated the science of climate alarmism and ordered the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases.
Other text in Justice Ginsburg’s opinion clearly indicates that it is up to the EPA as to whether greenhouse gases should be regulated. The agency might decline to regulate so long as its decision is not “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law.”
If there was any doubt before, the court has now unanimously shifted the blame for destroying the economy with carbon regulations to the Obama administration.
This decision has 2012 implications, as well.
The winner of the presidential election will be fully in charge of the EPA and the decision whether the agency regulates greenhouse gases.
If re-elected, President Obama most likely will keep the pedal to the metal in order to accelerate EPA control of America’s economy. A Republican president will have the option to roll back the EPA’s junk science-fueled regulations or to do something in between.
No Republican candidate yet has indicated what they would do about the EPA’s job- and economy-killing greenhouse-gas regulations, though Rep. Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have courageously called for the abolition of the EPA.
At the very least, the EPA’s greenhouse-gas regulations should be rolled back as part of a complete rethinking of environmental protection policies and practices. In the more than 40 years since President Richard Nixon merged the various federal environmental programs into the EPA, our environment has become about as generally pristine, clean and safe as makes sense.
This is not about rolling back meaningful environmental protection so much as it is about rolling back harmful overregulation. By making us poorer, today’s overregulation eventually will hurt the environment and public health more than past emissions of anything ever did.
Now that the Supreme Court has removed its imprimatur from EPA’s attack on America, Republicans should exploit the moment to save our economy from an out-of-control agency.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery, 2009).