What the Supreme Court Said — And Didn’t Say

By April 3, 2007General

Much will be written yesterday and today about the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, a case in which a bunch of environmental groups sued the EPA for not regulating greenhouse gases. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, most all the articles you read will represent the hopes and views of the reporters, claiming massive defeat for the President and a Supreme Court finding that global warming is real.

In fact, if you look at the opinion, it spend a fair amount of time on the dry and technical legal issue of standing, i.e., whether these enviro groups could claim injury and thus have the right to sue. Ultimately the court, but a whopping 5-4 margin, decided that they did.

“Dicta” is the legal term for verbiage in a decision that isn’t necessarily pertinent to the decision and there is plenty of it in this decision on climate change from the newest climate change expert, Justice Stevens. (Crikey, everybody’s joining the club!) But the plain truth is that the Court sent this case back to the lower court and said that if the EPA doesn’t want to regulate greenhouse gases, it needs to make it case.

In conclusion, the court said this:

” If the scientific uncertainty is so profound that it precludes EPA from making a reasoned judgment as to whether green-house gases contribute to global warming, EPA must say so… In short, EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change. Its action was therefore “arbitrary, capricious, . . . or otherwise not in accordance with law…” We need not and do not reach the question whether on remand EPA must make an endangerment finding, or whether policy concerns can inform EPA’s actions in the event that it makes such a finding. ..We hold only that EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the statute.”

That’s a far cry from a Supreme Court finding that there’s global warming and the EPA must act, isn’t it?

Here’s a link to the full opinion, including dissents by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia.