UPDATE, 12:15 PM: The Sierra Club has issued a blistering statement announcing the filing of a mandamus petition with the D.C. Circuit, which asks the Court to order an an endangerment finding within sixty days. It also calls for EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's resignation, should he remain unwilling or unable to follow through with the Court's mandate.
One year ago today, the Supreme Court issued a historic opinion in Massachusetts v. EPA that all but ordered the federal government to take up an active role in limiting the carbon emissions most responsible for global warming. Our own Tim Dowling wrote at the time that it seemed "wildly optimistic" for anyone to argue-- as the Heritage Foundation, among others, has persisted-- that any business-as-usual response from EPA would be met with anything other than skepticism in court.
Of course, the EPA has decided to directly follow Heritage's playbook amidst a year of other assorted delays. Thus, the coalition of states and environmental groups that sued in Mass. v. EPA will return to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today, alleging an unreasonable delay on the EPA's part. We'll post the relevant legal documents once they are available; in the interim, we direct readers to the excellent editorial in this morning's Washington Post, which largely reflects the facts presented by Rep. Henry Waxman's March 12 letter to Administrator Johnson, and is bluntly titled "Ignoring the Supreme Court."
THE BUSH administration never had any intention of doing what the Supreme Court commanded it to do a year ago today: regulate greenhouse gas emissions. We infer this because, even though President Bush ordered his agencies last May to work together to meet the court's directive, and even though the Environmental Protection Agency delivered to the White House last December its finding that those pollutants endanger public welfare, a prerequisite for regulation, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson announced last week a plan to seek public input starting in the spring on how best to limit the emissions. Translation: punt to the next administration. This giant step backward is the starkest example yet of the chasm between the words and deeds of Mr. Bush on climate change.
Our only observation to add here is that stark as that chasm may be, the gap between those egging on the administration and legal reality is wider still, and seemingly growing with each delaying tactic. Seriously, read the response to EPA's decision last week from Heritage's Ben Lieberman, one of those behind the strategy Johnson followed. It reads more like a critique of the Court's ruling a year ago and, beyond that, of the Clean Air Act itself, than a direct response to what the statutory text and the Court's parameters essentially demand. In other words, national action on climate change has been delayed by people who can't get over the fact that a decades-old law they never liked is stacked against their do-nothing position, and the reality that they've got little realistic chance at changing it.
The now-missing proposed endangerment finding discussed in the editorial might also end up dragging EPA into court, depending on its response to Congress. Also today, Rep. Ed Markey's global warming committee is expected to subpoena that document and others, after many exasperated attempts to obtain them.