Washington: Yesterday’s 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court found that states do have legal standing to sue the EPA regarding the regulation of carbon dioxide from automobile emissions. The court further ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from automobile emissions under the Clean Air Act, and that if the agency does not want to regulate those emissions, it must give concrete, scientific reasons for not doing so.

“The Court’s reading sets unusually tight limits on EPA’s discretion to control its own agenda. Apparently, EPA can postpone regulation only if it can show that global warming science is too uncertain,” says Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman's Peter Wyckoff, a former EPA counsel based in Washington, DC, who now regularly defends companies against EPA enforcement actions under the Clean Air Act.

"While EPA may try to run out the clock until the 2008 election, the ruling could have significant ramifications, especially for new equipment burning fossil-fuels, if the agency concludes carbon dioxide is harmful. The impacts could reach beyond just the automobile industry, affecting nearly every business in the country,” Wyckoff added.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman launched one of the nation's first climate change and sustainability practices earlier this year. The firm's multidisciplinary practice advises clients nationally and internationally on the rapidly changing legal landscape relating to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The group brings together nationally-recognized attorneys in environmental regulation, litigation, public policy, project finance, and corporate governance. As pressure to curb GHG emissions increases around the world, companies are concentrating on their sustainability policies and grappling with how to manage their own GHG emissions and related litigation risks.