Monday, June 27, 2011

The Mission Against Emissions

Last week, on June 20th, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that state and city governments as well as nonprofits could not sue utility companies for greenhouse gas emissions from their power plants. Instead, because the Court ruled that greenhouse gas emissions fall under the category of “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act (Massachusetts v. EPA), the EPA alone is responsible for regulating and setting standards for these fossil-fuel fired power plants.

This comes as mixed news.

On the negative side, through this ruling the Court has set the stage preventing other organizations from forcing utility companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In this specific Supreme Court case, the defendants were five utility companies which the plaintiffs alleged are the five largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the country, responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from all domestic human sources in the United States. To prevent any person or organization from forcing limits upon emitters can seem frustrating in light of climate change issues.

However, on the positive side, the EPA has stated that they will set standards limiting emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants by May 2012. And the Supreme Court did explain that if the EPA does not set emission limits for a particular pollutant at that time, States and private parties could then file suit.

Overall, I agree with the Court’s decision and I think it is a great reminder of how the EPA is finally taking responsibility and moving forward on regulating emissions that are exacerbating climate change. Additionally, I think it prompts business owners to remember that we cannot forget our individual responsibility. Threats of lawsuits will not be looming overhead, but we should still conduct good business practices and do all in our power to set our own standards, reduce our emissions, and become more sustainable.

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