- October 23 - Twelve states, several cities, and over a dozen environmental groups today joined forces to challenge the Bush Administration's continued failure to confront global warming. The plaintiffs are targeting the unprecedented ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency late last summer that summarily disavowed the agency's long-standing jurisdiction under the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming emissions. The states, cities and groups challenged the EPA decision in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. (full list below)
"The Bush Administration tried to say yet again that it's not their job to fight global warming. In fact they have both the legal and moral responsibility to tackle global warming pollution," said David Bookbinder, Senior Attorney for the Sierra Club.
On August 28, EPA officials reversed long-standing policy with an administrative ruling denying authority to control heat-trapping emissions like carbon dioxide, claiming they don't meet the Clean Air Act definition of "pollutant." The ruling came in response to a petition by the International Center for Technology Assessment, Greenpeace and other environmental organizations asking EPA to comply with the law, which requires the agency to protect Americans against all harmful pollutants, including emissions that damage the climate.
"The Bush Administration can try to ignore the science behind the causes of global warming, but it can't hide from the law," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director for the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA). "If it takes lawsuit after lawsuit to force the Bush Administration to accept its responsibilities and pursue good public policy on this issue, then that's what it will face."
After many delays EPA eventually opened a public comment period on the 1999 petition, receiving 50,000 comments -- the vast majority supporting the call for action against global warming. But more than three years later, the Bush Administration had still refused to act. Last year, the groups sued the EPA for its failure to respond.
"Global warming is implicated in an increasing number of endangered species declines from coral reefs to the Arctic. These endangered species are our 'canaries in the coal mine.' Their alarming disappearances should be a warning sign to us all," said Jay Tutchton, of the Center for Biological Diversity.
"The Bush administration is playing language games to avoid legal responsibility for protecting the American public against the health and environmental costs of global warming," said David Doniger, Climate Center Policy Director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "You can't make pollution disappear with the stroke of an executive pen."
Global warming gases have already been linked to unstable weather patterns, floods, droughts, and outbreaks of tropical diseases such as West Nile Virus. If left unchecked, global warming will cause rising sea levels, the melting of the polar icecaps, and a host of other environmental problems that are beginning to seriously affect the lives of virtually every American. Extreme weather events cost Americans nearly $20 billion in 2002, a cost that could increase if the U.S. does nothing to curb global warming.
"While the Bush Administration fails to regulate global warming pollution, consumers are losing out on the money-saving benefits of clean energy solutions, and we all pay the price to deal with the consequences," said U.S. PIRG Staff Attorney Katherine Morrison.
States challenging EPA's decision are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. American Samoa, and the District of Columbia are also named in today's petition. The cities of Baltimore, and New York also filed a separate petition today.
Environmental Groups joining the challenge are Bluewater Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Center for Technology Assessment, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
Jay Tutchton, Center for Biological Diversity (303) 871-6034
Jon Coifman, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (202) 289-2404
Julie Anderson , Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) (202) 223-6133 x109
Katherine Morrison, U.S. PIRG (202) 546-9707 Ext. 318
Kert Davies, Greenpeace, (202) 413-8515
Leslie Caplan, Bluewater Network, 415-544-0790 x23
Seth Kaplan, Conservation Law Foundation (617) 350-0990 ext. 721