"The Clean Air Act specifically requires EPA to reduce emissions of pollutants that threaten public health and welfare, and names impacts on climate as one of the threats," says Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, one of the private groups supporting the states' lawsuit. "We expect the court will determine that EPA not only has the authority to reduce global-warming pollution, but has a duty to do so."
Acting on behalf of the administration, Justice Department lawyers assert that the EPA does not have that authority since it would involve fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks - the province of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
"For CO2, there's no catalytic converter," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. "There's no catch mechanism. The only way to reduce them is through fuel economy. The point is it would usurp NHTSA's authority." Siding with the administration here are many industry groups as well as 11 other states, including ones that produce oil and gas, automobiles, and coal-powered energy.
Meanwhile, nine Eastern states (the six New England states plus Delaware, New Jersey, and New York) have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative requiring large power plants to reduce carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Officials in Maine, for example, worry that unchecked climate change could raise sea levels there 16 inches by the end of the century.
California is battling the auto industry in its effort to limit emissions from cars and trucks. Washington State is considering similar legislation. Oregon and the other two West Coast states have joined together to measure and report GHG emissions, reduce the use of diesel generators on ships in port, and combine purchasing power to buy fuel-efficient vehicles for official use.
Around the country, cities and towns are taking steps to reduce global warming as well. Worcester, Mass., for example, has committed to getting 20 percent of its energy from nonpolluting sources by the end of the decade.