Happy Birthday, Justice Stevens!

Today is the 89th birthday of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. History will remember Justice Stevens as one of our greatest Supreme Court justices, in large part for the work he has done in the past decade. Justice Stevens personifies the argument against term limits and for life tenure.

In celebration of his work, and in light of last week’s historic global warming endangerment finding by the EPA, we wanted to highlight one of our favorite opinions by Justice Stevens, his landmark opinion in Massachusetts v. EPA. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Stevens eloquently dismissed the Bush Administration’s efforts to avoid using its authority under the Clean Air Act to address greenhouse gases:
The alternative basis for EPA’s decision – that even if it does have statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gases, it would be unwise to do so at this time – rest [is this rests?] on reasoning divorced from the statutory text…. If EPA makes a finding of endangerment, the Clean Air Act requires the agency to regulate emissions of the deleterious pollutant from new motor vehicles….

EPA has refused to comply with this clear statutory command. Instead, it has offered a laundry list of reasons not to regulate…. Although we have neither the expertise nor the authority to evaluate these policy judgments, it is evident they have nothing to do with whether greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change. Still less do they amount to a reasoned justification for declining to form a scientific judgment…

In short, EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change. Its action was therefore “arbitrary, capricious …or otherwise not in accordance with law.”
This opinion changed the debate over global warming in this country and paved the way for last week’s endangerment finding. CAC’s predecessor organization, Community Rights Counsel, filed a brief on behalf of a large coalition of local government clients in Massachusetts v. EPA, and we launched our Warming Law blog the day after the case was decided. We wish Justice Stevens a very Happy Birthday, and many more years on the Court!

Cross posted at Warming Law.

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