The US Supreme Court on the EPA

St. Antony’s College in spring

On April 2nd, the United States Supreme Court passed down a decision on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates greenhouse gases. The ruling was made on the basis of the Clean Air Act (a piece of 60s era legislation) and asserts that the EPA has the jurisdiction to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. It goes on to chastise the organization for not doing so.

While the decision is certainly in keeping with the way the things are blowing, one has to wonder whether such an approach is sensible. The kind of problem posed by climate change has only become reasonably well understood in the period after the Clean Air Act was implemented. Also, while the EPA has a considerable amount of expertise, it does not have a huge amount of legitimacy. At least, it doesn’t have the level that would be necessary to push through the kind of societal changes society requires.

The smart money is that the next American administration – whether Democrat or Republican – will oversee a substantial change of tack when it comes to climate policy. The denialism of the present lot simply won’t be tenable in the post-2008 world. What form that new engagement takes – national, through bilateral or regional initiatives, or through a global system – will be the truly interesting thing to keep one’s eye upon.

PS. Apologies, but the profoundly disrupted state of the St. Antony’s College network at the moment prevents me from posting an image. Just getting this post to appear required more than ten hours of frustration. An image will appear once I am on a solid connection again. How cruel to come home to such shoddiness.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

2 thoughts on “The US Supreme Court on the EPA”

  1. After a couple of trying days, internet access has returned to Church Walk. Sweet, precious internet access.

  2. Regulating greenhouse gases
    Enter the EPA

    Oct 1st 2009 | NEW YORK
    From The Economist print edition
    If Congress won’t legislate…

    OVER the past few days, America has moved towards a federal system for regulating its carbon emissions in three ways. First, several big companies have broken with trade associations that oppose the cap-and-trade bill now in the Senate. Second, the bill has moved a stage further towards becoming law. Third, and most important, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that if Congress won’t legislate to cut greenhouse gases, it will regulate anyway.

    America’s powerful trade associations, who lobby politicians on their members’ behalf, are split as never before over the Waxman-Markey bill to cap greenhouse-gas emissions. Some of their members take the traditional view that all regulation is bad. Others reckon that capping carbon emissions is essential. (They tend to be companies which are not heavy emitters—either power utilities with more nuclear and gas than coal-fired plants, or service or light-manufacturing companies.)

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