Court backs clean air and science in ruling that EPA can regulate against global warming

Whatever the Supreme Court  announces later this week related to the Affordable Care Act, another court in the land has made a landmark decision that will improve the health and well-being of everyone in the United States, if not the world.

A federal court has upheld a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that man-made greenhouses gases pose a threat to public health that requires the EPA by law to impose limits on the emissions causing the danger. 

The unanimous decision rejected the arguments raised by the hacks hired by some (but not all) utilities, manufacturing companies and business associations. Those who brought the lawsuit against the EPA were trying to sell the old myth that the very idea that the Earth is warming is based on unreliable studies. Luckily, the judges could read and therefore understand with great clarity that the overwhelming preponderance of evidence supports the science of global warming.

As even The Wall Street Journal’s anti-EPA version of the news admits, there is little room in the decision for appeal, as the judges noted several times how strongly the law backed the EPA’s position. Despite the great odds of winning, though, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia said the state plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Virginia was one of 14 states that sued to block the EPA rules; the list of other states that joined in the lawsuit against the best interests of their citizens reads like a roll call of Tea Party hotspots: Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas, for example.  

That 15 states, including California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, supported the EPA regulations underscores the deep divisions we have in the country right now. To a great extent, those divisions have occurred because one side insists on spewing out lies and questioning the validity of proven science.

In the case of global warming, there are two sets of lies: 1) that environmental regulations hurts the economy; 2) that the science of global warming is not yet proven.  The judges did not have to deal with the first set of lies. To the second, it answered with crushing clarity, exemplified by the most quoted part of the decision: “This is how science works. The EPA is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”   

We should celebrate this victory for everyone—since everyone has to breathe the air and many millions are suffering and will suffer from the severe economic dislocations that extreme weather and resource shortages are causing and will continue to cause.

But in this victory, let’s also look at the sober fact: The appeals court ruled that it was okay for the EPA to make its decisions based on scientific truth.  Opposed to this proposition were the politicians of 14 states and the lawyers of many companies and associations. Their efforts, backed by millions of dollars, slowed down implementation of anti-pollution regulations for some 5 years.

They also acted against the wishes of their constituencies, according to a 2012 study of the public’s attitudes on energy and the environment conducted by George Mason’s University’s Center for Climate Change Communications. In a study that received absolutely zero publicity, George Mason researchers found that:

  • 72 % of Americans think that addressing global warming should be a very high priority.
  • 92 % of Americans think that developing sources of clean energy should be a very high priority.
  • 83 % of Americans think that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (58%) or has no effect on economic growth or jobs (25%).

Thus even with the law, the truth and the public on its side, the EPA still had to slog through 5 years of legal proceedings just to demonstrate that, indeed, the government can make a decision based on facts.


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