Policy News Update

April 13, 2007

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The Bush administration must consider regulating carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, the Supreme Court said April 2 in its first decision addressing legal issues surrounding global warming. In a 5-4 ruling on Massachusetts v. EPA , the court sided with 11 states and 13 environmental groups that sued U.S. EPA to force the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks.

Writing for the majority, Justice John Stevens rejected Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) position that the Clean Air Act does not grant the agency the authority to issue mandatory regulations addressing climate change -- and that even if EPA held that authority, a federal rule would do little to stem any effects from climate change on Massachusetts or the other petitioners, given that U.S. auto emissions only account for about 7 percent of global fossil fuel emissions and about 30 percent of domestic emissions.

Joining Justice Stevens in the majority opinion were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas offered two dissents, one written by Roberts and one by Scalia.

The Ecological Society of America weighed in on this case in November 2006: www.esa.org/pao/newsroom/pressReleases2006/11292006.php


The Bush Administration said April 6 that the latest report by an international scientific panel examining the effects of climate change would lead to no shift in U.S. global climate change policies that shun mandatory curbs on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

"This report reinforces" administration policies that emphasize technology development and the production of alternative fuels, said President Bush's top environmental adviser, James Connaughton. Finalized after tense, all-night negotiations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report for the first time links human activities to climate change at a regional scale and forecasts stark impacts caused by rising temperatures -- desertification, species extinctions and melting glaciers.

Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, called the IPCC findings "a reinforcement of a piece of what underlined the President's State of the Union this year ... this idea that we can replace 20 percent of our petroleum usage" over the next decade. Asked whether the IPCC report strengthened the case for a mandatory emissions cap, an idea pushed by many congressional Democrats, Connaughton said the fuels program "is a mandatory cap."

In sharp contrast to the White House's reaction to the report, congressional Democrats said the document strengthens the case for enacting climate legislation as soon as possible.


China announced April 11 that it would participate in discussions of post-Kyoto Protocol global climate change mitigation efforts, in a major move toward international cooperation for the country that is expected to become the world's top greenhouse gas emitter as early as 2010.

While China signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, as a developing country it did not have to commit to GHG reduction targets. The United States refused to sign on the grounds that developed countries were unfairly penalized. Since then, China has ramped up its industrial infrastructure and was responsible for 18 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004, according to Japanese researchers. The United States produced 21 percent of emissions that year; some experts think China will pass the United States as early as 2010. Another harbinger of China 's growing commitment to addressing global climate change is many Chinese farmers' increasing awareness of the phenomenon's effects.


The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will begin offering nearly $100 million in grants for research intended to develop policies for reducing global warming.

Announced April 9, the Foundation's climate change project is based on the belief that creating smart climate change policy will lead to the adoption of clean-energy technologies. It will support research for alternative energy requirements and developing a system to either tax or establish a cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions.


The Florida manatee may soon lose some of its protections under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to an internal Fish and Wildlife Service memo on the species' status.

Concluding that the manatee "no longer meets the definition of an endangered species," an internal FWS memo is recommending changing the sea cow's status from "endangered" to "threatened," a move that would lift some restrictions on boating and development near Florida 's waters.

The memo, dated March 26, follows one of the worst years for the Florida manatee on record. Of about 3,200 manatees living in Florida waters, 416 died last year, the highest number of deaths recorded in 30 years. The deaths were primarily due to collisions with boat propellers.

The memo reflects the conclusions of a "Five-Year Review" of manatees. FWS spokesman Chuck Underwoord said that while the memo reflects the agency's conclusions at the time, that opinion may change by the time the review is released later this month.


The Bush administration is moving ahead with its two-pronged push to curtail the Clinton-era roadless rule for national forests, asking a federal appeals court to lift the restrictions and announcing plans to remove roadless protections from Idaho forests.

On April 6, the Justice Department announced it would appeal a September decision by a San Francisco judge that reinstated the Clinton-era rule placing about 50 million acres of national forest off-limits to road-building, logging and other development.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service said April 10 it would begin a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the state of Idaho 's proposal to remove 9.3 million acres of national forests from the roadless rule, replacing the roadless designation with a patchwork of management plans, some of which would allow timber cuts.

The Ecological Society of America has previously commented on the roadless issue, including a letter from then-President Bill Schlesinger in 2004: www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/LetterUtahDisclaimerInterest05072004.php

Sources: Energy and Environment Daily and Greenwire

Send questions or comments to Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs, Nadine@esa.org; Colleen Fahey, Policy Analyst, Colleen@esa.org

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