Brown To EPA: Obey Supreme Court Mandate

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Contact: (415) 703-5837,

WASHINGTON DC—California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today called upon the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to “obey the Supreme Court’s landmark decision,” Massachusetts v. EPA, opening a new front in the legal battle for tailpipe greenhouse gas regulations.

“The Artic is melting faster than ever before, yet the EPA stubbornly refuses to do its job,” Attorney General Brown said. “The EPA should obey the Supreme Court’s landmark decision and issue regulations to curb greenhouse gas pollutants without further delay.”

The landmark Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. EPA, held that the EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The EPA itself, in a notice last month in the Federal Register, described the Court’s mandate:

“…the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must determine, under Section 202 (a) of the Clean Air Act, whether greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health or welfare.”

Greenhouse gas pollutants are pouring into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise at an unprecedented rate. Eleven of the 12 warmest years since record keeping began, 150 years ago, have occurred in the past 12 years. In 2006, Arctic sea ice declined by the largest amount ever recorded, losing an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined.

Before the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas pollution, the agency must make a formal determination that such emissions threaten public health or welfare. After the Court’s decision in April 2007, the EPA said it would propose regulations by the end of the year, but it has failed to do so. In a letter sent today by California and 17 other states and local governments, Brown asserted that “the EPA is unreasonably delaying” the procedural steps necessary for issuing regulations.

Brown called upon the EPA to immediately issue a formal conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions “cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Brown requested a response, with the agency’s specific intentions, by February 27, 2008.

Today’s letter serves as a notice that states are preparing to go back to court to get the EPA to comply with the Supreme Court's mandate.

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 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 the Clean Air Act, California is also allowed to impose tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions regulations if the state obtains a waiver from the EPA. Brown sued the EPA on January 2, after the agency broke forty years of precedent by denying California’s request, which would have allowed the state to cut tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016. It was the first denial since the Clean Air Act was established in 1967.

In rejecting the state’s request, the EPA stated that California failed to demonstrate “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” as required by the Clean Air Act. This statement contradicted forty years of agency practice and ignored the dangerous consequences of global warming to the State of California.

Under the Bush administration, the EPA has also failed to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for ocean-going vessels and aircraft—both major worldwide contributors to global warming.

Global warming threatens California’s coastline, levees, and Sierra mountain snow pack which provides one-third of the state’s drinking water. California’s unique topography and its high human and vehicular population have already caused higher ozone concentrations than other parts of the country. For more information on the impacts of global warming, visit:

Seventeen other states and local governments are joining today’s letter including: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the City Solicitor for the City of Baltimore and the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York.

The states’ letter to the EPA is attached.

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PDF icon Letter57.07 KB