Court ruling could help Vermont in carbon dioxide regulation

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(Host) The U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down today could help Vermont and other northeastern states in their efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

Environmentalists and Attorney General William Sorrell hailed the ruling, which was seen as a rebuke of Bush Administration policies.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) The case was closely followed in Vermont because the automobile industry has sued the state to stop new rules that limit carbon dioxide pollution from cars.

(Sorrell) “And this decision out of the Supreme Court greatly helps our arguments.”

(Dillon) Attorney General William Sorrell says the Supreme Court’s ruling underscores that CO2 is a pollutant that must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

(Sorrell) “It helps us because the plaintiffs in that case were really arguing that we were really trying to affect fuel economy standards and we weren’t really trying to deal with the environmental problems that CO2 represent in terms of their contributions to air pollution and global warming.”

(Dillon) The EPA, under the Bush Administration, argued it did not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to control CO2 emissions.

Vermont and 11 other states, along with 13 environmental groups, sued over the issue.
Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice John Paul Stevens referred specifically to scientific findings about the dangers of global warming. His decision made clear that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants and must be regulated.

The court’s ruling came as scientists held a conference call to discuss the latest research on the impact of climate change on New England.

John Aber is an expert on forest ecosystems at the University of New Hampshire. He said New England’s maples may be in trouble as the planet warms.

(Aber) “Climate change is significant enough that sugar maple could be outside its normal climate range in all of New England by the end of the century. The loss of sugar maples would be a fairly significant change. It affects economics, tourism and cultural values as well.”

(Dillon) Brian Dunkiel is a Burlington environmental lawyer. He said it’s been a remarkable 72 hours of legal action on climate change and air pollution. Dunkiel’s firm represents plaintiffs – including a Vermont sugarmaker – who have sued to stop the federal government from financing projects overseas that contribute to global warming.

(Dunkiel) “In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, you had a federal court in San Francisco also allowing a case to proceed there. So what you have between the two decisions is no less than three federal agencies being told that their existing approach to handling climate change must be altered in order to get into compliance with the law.”

(Dillon) And also on Monday, the Supreme Court, in a separate case, sided with Vermont’s position in an issue involving acid rain pollution.

Attorney General William Sorrell said both decisions should help clean up emissions from cars and power plants.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

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