Massachusetts v. EPA

549 U.S. 497, 127 S. Ct. 1438 (2007)



To ensure the proper adversarial presentation to support standing, a litigant must demonstrate that it has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or imminent, that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant, and that it is likely that a favorable decision will redress that injury. However, a litigant to whom Congress accords a procedural right to protect his concrete interests can assert that right without meeting all the normal standards for redressability and immediacy. When a litigant is vested with a procedural right, that litigant has standing if there is some possibility that the requested relief will prompt the injury-causing party to reconsider the decision that allegedly harmed the litigant.


Some private organizations filed a rulemaking petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin regulating emission of four "greenhouse gases," including carbon dioxide, under § 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C.S. § 7521(a)(1)), which required the EPA to prescribe standards applicable to emission of "any air pollutant" from any class of new motor vehicles which in the EPA Administrator's judgment caused or contributed to air pollution reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. The EPA issued an order denying the petition, asserting that the Clean Air Act (CAA) did not authorize the EPA to address global climate change and that, in any event, executive policy specifically addressing global warming warranted the EPA's refusal to regulate in such area.  The private organizations, joined by some intervenor states and local governments, sought review of the EPA's order in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which denied review, hence, this appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court.


Do the petitioners have standing to challenge the EPA’s order? Consequently, can the EPA regulate emission of the greenhouse gases? 




The U.S. Supreme Court held that petitioners had standing to challenge EPA's denial of their rulemaking petition since at least one petitioner state properly asserted a concrete injury from the potential further loss of its coastal land, much of which was owned by the state, from rising sea levels caused by climate change. Further, because greenhouse gases were clearly within the CAA's broad definition of an air pollutant, the EPA had the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles, and there was no showing of any congressional intent to bar the EPA from addressing global warming. Also, it was undisputed that global warming threatened serious harms and policy considerations were irrelevant to the EPA's statutory mandate to determine whether the greenhouse gases contributed to global warming and whether motor vehicle emissions of such gases actually or potentially endangered public health or welfare.

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