This post is by Vickie Patton, Deputy General Counsel at Environmental Defense Fund, and a former attorney in EPA's General Counsel's office.
One year ago, the Supreme Court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claim that it lacked legal authority to regulate global warming pollution (for example, from vehicle tailpipes). EPA administrator Stephen Johnson promised a firm and prompt response to the high Court's decision, but a year passed with no action.
Then on March 27, Johnson recanted his commitment.
So today, a broad coalition of 18 states, 3 cities, and 11 non-profit organizations (see full list*) took legal action to compel EPA to comply. The parties are led by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and include Environmental Defense Fund.
The first step is to obtain EPA's formal determination of whether global warming pollution endangers public health or welfare. This determination was transmitted to the White House in December and improperly withheld from the public.
So the parties filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the federal court of appeals in Washington, D.C., asking the court to direct EPA to issue its determination within 60 days.
The petition [PDF] documents EPA's defiance of the Supreme Court:
As EPA's own statements and a Congressional inquiry demonstrate: the Administrator publicly set a firm deadline for making the endangerment determination by the end of 2007; the agency has already completed all of its work on issues that, under the Supreme Court's decision, are relevant to that determination; the Administrator has in fact made an internal decision in favor of endangerment; and the Administrator has forwarded the full formal write-up of that determination to the White House Office of Management and Budget. The publication of the endangerment determination, however, is now being withheld. The Administrator has refused to give the petitioners or Congress a timetable for action, and he has explained his delay by reference to considerations that are not legally relevant under the Supreme Court's ruling.
For more on the background of this standoff, see today's Washington Post editorial, "Ignoring the Supreme Court".
*Note: this list has been updated.
The parties joining this Petition for Mandamus are: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the States of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, the City of New York, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Center for Technological Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. In addition, the following states have joined as amici curiae to express their support for the petition: Arizona, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, and Minnesota.