[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Massachusetts v. EPA [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-1120, a case where 12 states and several environmental groups are challenging an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] determination that it does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] to regulate the emission of "greenhouse gases," such as carbon dioxide, by automobiles. The petitioners argued that the unfettered emission of greenhouse gases causes irrevocable damage to the environment through the erosion of coastal land. Questions remain, however, whether the petitioners have sufficiently satisfied the burden of proving that the EPA's failure to regulate caused any harm. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito appeared most reluctant to accept the petitioners' arguments, noting that EPA regulation of automobiles would have little impact on the overall emission of greenhouse gases. Lawyers representing the EPA pointed to the substantial effect on the economy that regulation would cause. Additionally the federal government lawyers argued the Bush administration's position that the EPA would not restrict emissions even if it had the authority under the CAA because scientific evidence of the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming is too uncertain. Massachusetts v. EPA is the first case concerning global warming to come before the Supreme Court. AP has more.
Also on Tuesday, the Court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Watters v. Wachovia Bank N.A. [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-1342, a case asking whether the National Bank Act [text] and regulations promulgated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency [official website] pre-empt state laws regulating mortgage lending by subsidiaries of national banks. Chief Justice Roberts questioned whether pre-emption applies, suggesting that there is no inconsistency in state oversight of a bank subsidiary's financials. Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern that ruling for Wachovia would eliminate important state safeguards on subsidiary activity. All 50 states are united in their position against federal pre-emption. AP has more.