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Massachusetts Et Al. V Environmental Protection Agency: Implications for Public Health Policy and Practice

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Theodore Roosevelt once stated, “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, for the generations that come after us”. This quote by one of our nation’s former presidents, exemplifies the view many citizens have towards the idea of environmental conservation.

The Supreme Court case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embodies the importance of environmental conservation for people in the United States. The concept of environmental conservation is a more recent idea in American history and has only been publicly recognized in the past century. Although the concept of air pollutants is a relatively new discovery, there have been many rules and regulations created in order to combat this pressing issue. The rising concern towards the emissions of greenhouse gases has instigated many Supreme Court cases. Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency was one of the most influential court cases on pollution in United States history, and its outcome has had lasting effects on the Nation.

Throughout the United States’ brief history, there has been a great need for environmental conservation. The first major event that caused Americans to entertain the idea of protecting the environment was the Industrial Revolution. This age of technological advancement caused many corporations with factories to release large sums of pollutants into the air, as well as the exploitation of natural resources in order to make way for human development. However, the recognition of this problem led American citizens to realize the need for reform. Although there were no laws or regulations to keep this misuse of resources in check they knew that something would have to be done. One such influential figure on this concept was Theodore Roosevelt. Over the years he saw the effects of these technological advancements and saw that if attention was not brought to this problem then there would be dire consequences. He was an iconic symbol of environmental conservation in the United States through his love for the outdoors and advocating for national parks. His influence led to the creation of national parks throughout the country and brought to light the idea of environmental conservation. Over the past few decades, the recognition of harmful greenhouse gases has caused the concern for the emission air pollutants to dramatically increase. There have been many investigations and debates on the topic of global warming and its cause, but there has never been a definitive answer. However, in an attempt to combat the escalating issue of global warming, many policies and regulations have been put in place in order to subside the effects of this potential crisis. One such regulation was enacted in 1970 and it was deemed The Clean Air Act. According to ……… this federal law that placed standards on the amount of air pollutants that can be emitted in the United States from stationary and mobile sources. This law also authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. The Clean Air Act defines air pollutant as “any air pollution agent … , including any physical, chemical … substance … emitted into … the ambient air.”(Cornell University Law School). Although there is a recognition of the issue of greenhouse gases, there has not yet been a permanent solution to this environmental crisis. The tension between individual and business autonomy and increasing government regulation has brought many disputes up to the highest level in the American legal system the Supreme Court of the United States. According to …… Massachusetts and several other states petitioned to the Environmental Protection Agency in order to have them place standards and regulate the amount of carbon emissions given off by newer vehicles. These states believed that the air pollutants emitted from these vehicles were detrimental and harmful to the environment and society. The Environmental Protection Agency declined the petition, stating that the Clean Air Act does not authorize the EPA to issue regulations concerning climate change. They claimed that even if they had the authority to set greenhouse gas standards it would be unwise because the effect of greenhouse gases and the increase in temperature was not unequivocally established. Since the EPA declined the petition Massachusetts and several other states review in the D.C. Circuit working their way towards the Supreme Court.

Possibly one of the most influential court cases on the topic of air pollution in the United States was Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that occurred on November 6, 2006. According to Oyez law, eventually the case made its way to the Supreme Court in November of 2006. There were two topics discussed in the court. The case continued the discussion on whether the EPA had to require corporations to regulate the amount of carbon emissions, or any other air pollutants that may be harmful, that a motorized vehicle could emit in the United States.

First the Plaintiff, Massachusetts and company, claimed that the EPA cannot choose to decline emission regulations for motorized vehicles based on policy considerations not enumerated in the CAA. They also stated that the EPA under the Clean Air Act was required and had the authority to air pollutants including greenhouse gases. The defendant, the EPA, denied these claims and stated that they were not required to regulate the carbon emissions under the CAA. It took many months to discuss this intricate case and a final decision was difficult to come upon. Although the Massachusetts and other states included in this case thought that carbon emissions were a significant and controversial issue to bring to the Supreme Court. After several months of debate the Supreme Court gave their opinion on the subject matter. According to ……. The case was decided in D.C. on April 2, 2007. The court came to two decisions on the matter. First the court voted 5-4 in favor of Massachusetts and claimed that the EPA had the power and duty to regulate corporate air emissions. The Court decided that the Clean Air Act enabled the EPA to protect and preserve the environment of the United States by restricting the amount of air pollutants released. However, the court agreed with the EPA in stating that they did not have to regulate carbon and other greenhouse gases as air pollutants. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Scalia, stated that the CAA was not responsible for combating global warming and that it was only for stopping lower atmospheric pollutants. The Supreme Court compromised and agreed with both the defendant and plaintiff in stating their opinion. This case was one of the most influential court decisions in US history and had many rippling effects throughout the course of the next decade. After the decision of the court the EPA placed regulations on emission for motorized vehicles in the US.

The regulation of this emission has had a major impact on motor companies throughout the country. The case also brought national attention to the pressing issue of carbon emissions. Prior to the case there was no connection between greenhouse gases and global warming, so this case raised a greater concern for the amount of air pollutants that are emitted into the atmosphere. The positive economic and environmental effects of this court decision are yet to be determined. The decision of the case will, most likely, have many implications on future generations.

There have been both positive and negative influences on the environment throughout American history, and Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency attempts to remedy the treatment of our atmosphere for future generations. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency has shaped and will continue to shape American views on environmental conservation.

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