Global Warming Legal News

News Item 1: Federal Court Rebukes Bush Administration for Withholding Global Warming Reports

On Aug. 21, a federal judge found that the Bush administration violated a 2004 congressional deadline for presenting the latest research about global warming to lawmakers and the public (Center for Biological Diversity, et.al. vs. Brennan, et al.).

Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California stated that administration officials "unlawfully withheld action they are required to take" under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (GCRA). GCRA requires periodic preparation and submission of a national global change research plan and a scientific assessment, which are intended to be the preeminent documents guiding federal research and policy-making on issues related to global warming.

The research plan guides all federal climate research, while the national assessment serves to provide an understandable summary of global warming impacts on the environment, economy, human health and human safety of the United States and is to by used by Congress and federal agencies in setting policy and responding to global warming.

The last national assessment was issued in late 2000 under the Clinton administration. Its use and dissemination was suppressed by the Bush administration, and the required update in 2004 was never produced. The research plan was required by law to be updated in 2006 but also has never been produced.

The judge ordered the Bush administration to issue the draft overdue research plan by March 1, 2008, with a final 90 days thereafter, and the national assessment by May 31, 2008.

"Knowledge is the key to effective action," said Danielle Fugere, global warming program director for Friends of the Earth. "Congress knew this when it required the best minds in our government to conduct a National Assessment documenting the impacts of global warming on the U.S. Today's ruling will help make that information available."

The ruling can be accessed in PDF format at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/policy/energy/CCSP-order-08-21-2007.pdf.

News Item 2: California AG Announces 'Landmark Settlement' of State's Global Warming Lawsuit Against San Bernardino County

On Aug. 21, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced a "landmark settlement" of the state's global warming lawsuit against San Bernardino County. The agreement, approved by the County Board of Supervisors, establishes a unique greenhouse gas reduction plan that will identify sources of emissions and set reduction targets for the county.

"San Bernardino now sets the pace for how local government can adopt powerful measures to combat oil dependency and climate disruption. This landmark agreement establishes one of the first greenhouse gas reduction plans in California. It is a model that I encourage other cities and counties to adopt," Brown told a news conference at the attorney general's office in downtown Los Angeles.

Under the agreement, the county will embark upon a 30-month public process aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions attributable to land use decisions and county government operations. The greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan mandates the following:

  • An inventory of all known, or reasonably discoverable, sources of greenhouse gases in the county.
  • An inventory of the greenhouse gas emissions level in 1990, currently, and that projected for the year 2020.
  • A target for the reduction of emissions attributable to the county's discretionary land use decisions and its own internal government operations.

Commenting on the agreement, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Gary C. Ovitt said, "Only a handful of California counties and cities have formally addressed climate change issues, and San Bernardino County will lead the way in the implementation of strategies and steps to enhance our future and serve as a model for others."

Under California law, the state is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and then reducing 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The settlement can be accessed in PDF format at http://ag.ca.gov/cms_pdfs/press/2007-08-21_San_Bernardino_settlement_agreement.pdf.

Check out the archives of Environmental Protection for recent court decisions related to global warming, including:

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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