Monday :: Apr 2, 2007

Supreme Court Rules Against Bush Administration On Regulating Auto Emissions

by Steve


The Bush Administration policy of claiming that the Clean Air Act did not give the federal government the authority to regulate auto emissions was tossed aside today by a closely-divided Supreme Court. In a suit filed by state attorney generals who claimed that the Clean Air Act (CAA) already provided the EPA with sufficient authority to regulate emissions, the court ruled 5-4 that there was no legal reason for the administration not to act.

And yes, Democrats need to remind voters next year that elections do have consequences. Take a look at who the four dissenting votes were, and the vacuous opinion of our new Chief Justice, who said it was a political matter and not a legal one whether or not the federal government upheld the CAA, and wasn't an issue for a state to sue the feds over.

The policy worked out just fine for the conservative, anti-environment crowd inside the administration, who were able to do nothing on global warming for six years while hiding behind the "we can't act on this because of pending litigation" defense. By making the states sue them in the courts to see if the GOP-stacked court would give them the ultimate victory, Big Business got six years of inaction from this administration, and are now likely to get a full eight, since there will be no real action on global warming from the federal government until the next administration.

It's a direct contrast to how the conservatives inside the government deal with lawsuits from their ideological allies. As we noticed four years ago, the Bush Administration and its business allies have mastered the art of "sue and settle", which is a nefarious way for Corporate America to work hand in hand with the White House to overturn laws and regulations they don't like. First, get an industry to sue the federal government on a law or regulation the industry wants eliminated or narrowed, after coordinating the attack with the White House and GOP congress through the K Street money machine. Then, after the suit has been filed and is headed through the court system, the federal government decides to "settle" the case by gutting the regulation in question as part of a legal settlement with the industry plaintiffs, all without much if any involvement from those who were protected by the law or regulation in the first place because it is falsely assumed that the federal government is representing the interests of the people when it settles these suits and guts these protections. But it really is a backdoor way for industry and the conservatives in the White House to get rid of things they don't like without mounting a frontal and more obvious challenge to do the same.

In this case however, it was the states who sued the conservatives to enforce the CAA and do something so that the states didn't have to. But the White House wasn't interested in reaching an agreement with these plaintiffs and instead wanted to see if the court would side with them. Either way, to them it was a win-win because it allowed the administration to abdicate any responsibility for dealing with global warming for an entire eight-year term while still holding out hope that the court would eviscerate the CAA.

But the folly of this policy has now been accepted by the industries themselves, who now see the cost and inconsistency of having to comply with individual requirements from dozens of states, rather than use K Street to buy their way into a single, hopefully favorable set of requirements from the federal government. Now they will be facing a tougher set of requirements from the next administration than they would have had if they had this foresight back in 2001.

Steve :: 8:30 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!