Late yesterday (very late, we are told), the EPA filed its formal opposition to the Massachusetts v. EPA plaintiffs' mandamus petition, which asked the court to order an endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions within 60 days, in response to the agency's unreasonable delay of over a year after the Supreme Court's opinion was handed down. The court initially set a deadline a week earlier, but EPA (shockingly, we know) asked for an extension.
EPA argues that it is reasonable for the agency to delay an endangerment finding-- described as a "preliminary step" and "clearly beyond the exceptional remedy of mandamus relief"-- until it can also complete the vehicle-emissions standards that would be automatically triggerred by the Clean Air Act, and which were the subject of the original petition way back in 1999. The agency also argues that it acted reasonably in suddenly ditching the endangerment finding and auto-emissions rules it had finished drafting late last year, writing that "EPA has reasonably decided to adjust those plans in response to external events (such as the enactment of fuel economy legislation by Congress in December 2007 and the receipt of several petitions under other CAA provisions) and further administrative consideration." The allegation that these
excuses adjustments were made in bad faith and with manifest impropriety are dismissed as "reckless and baseless."
David Bookbinder, the Sierra Club's Chief Climate Counsel, tells us via email that this response amounts to a "total nothingburger." He also seconds our sense that EPA's rationale is sadly familiar, noting (emphasis added) that:
EPA/DOJ have now repeated, in 29 pages, the same lame excuses for inaction that Steve johnson offered in his 3-page March 27 letters to Congress: this climate stuff is all terribly complicated...so everyone is going to have to wait while EPA thinks about this some more. Remarkably, these are nothing more than updated versions of the same excuses EPA relied on denying the original petition in the Mass. case back in 2003, and were categorically rejected by the Supreme Court. These excuses do not become any less pathetic by dint of either repetition or additional filter."