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Environmentalists Cheer US Supreme Court Ruling on Car Pollution


Environmentalists are elated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on pollution by automobiles. They say eventually the ruling could prompt the government to take more direct action to reduce greenhouse gases that most scientists blame for global warming. VOA's Paul Sisco reports.

The United States' highest court says the government's Environmental Protection Agency can and should regulate carbon-dioxide and other pollutants that cars produce. Until the Supreme Court stepped in, the EPA had declined to set limits on automobile exhaust gases, widely seen as a major factor in global warming.

The ruling is a rebuff for the Bush administration and a major victory for environmentalists. David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council says, "This opinion is a huge hammer blow in favor of doing something about global warming. The opinion says that the Bush administration has basically gotten the law wrong."

The environmental agency has contended it lacks the authority to regulate new cars' gas emissions, but in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court said such action is a federal responsibility. The ruling notes that U.S. vehicles are by no means the biggest source of atmospheric pollution, but the billions of tons of carbon dioxide they produce are a "meaningful" part of the global-warming trend.

"We think this decision is an overdue wake-up call," said Hawkins. "We think it will force action."

The court ruling does not order any specific regulatory action, but legal analysts say it opens the door for future cases that may do so. Senator Barbara Boxer says lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be watching the administration closely.

"If they don't do what they need to do, and they have the power to do, we will do it with them or for them," the Democratic senator from California said.

The government had questioned whether it was authorized to regulate automobile emissions, but White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said, "Now that the Supreme Court has settled that matter for us, we are going to have to analyze it and see where we go from there."

The auto industry says emissions regulations will take years to implement and could raises the cost of every new vehicle by thousands of dollars. "Prices will go up and, in the end, it is not the companies [but] the consumers that will be paying more," said Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Scientists working with the United Nations are preparing to release a major report on the impact of global climate change, following up their recent finding that human activity and the burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet.

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