High Court to Weigh Climate Change Case
A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles.
Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are burned. It is the principal "greenhouse" gas that many scientists believe is flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, leading to a warming of the earth and widespread ecological changes. One way to reduce those emissions is to have cleaner-burning cars.
The Bush administration intends to argue before the court on Wednesday that the EPA lacks the power under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The agency contends that even if it did have such authority, it would have discretion under the law on how to address the problem without imposing emissions controls.
The states, led by Massachusetts, and more than a dozen environmental groups insist the 1970 law makes clear that carbon dioxide is a pollutant - much like lead and smog-causing chemicals - that is subject to regulation because its poses a threat to public health.
A sharply divided federal appeals court ruled in favor of the government in 2005. But last June, the Supreme Court decided to take up the case, plunging for the first time into the politically charged debate over global warming. The ruling next year is expected to be one of the court's most important ever involving the environment.
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