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Supreme Court declines to hear Alaskan village's greenhouse gas claim

The US Supreme Court [official website] declined [order list, PDF] Monday to review an Alaskan village's claims that greenhouse gas producers should be held accountable to the village for pollution that threatens its vitality. Kivalina, a village of Inupiat Eskimo natives, filed suit [complaint PDF] against 22 corporations in 2009 for damages caused by greenhouse gases that reduced sea ice, increasing flooding, and sought damages so that it could relocate to a safer area. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has effectively affirmed the judgment [JURIST report] of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Citing to the Supreme Court's ruling in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut (AEP) [JURIST report], the Ninth Circuit ruled that greenhouse emissions were a political question, the resolution of which belongs to a different branch of government. By letting the Ninth Circuit's ruling stand, the court is essentially affirming its decision in AEP, requiring future greenhouse gas issues to be handled through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website], not the judiciary.

The role of the EPA in controlling greenhouse gas emissions is still evolving [JURIST news archive]. In Massachusetts v. EPA [JURIST report] the court found that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and its failure to set applicable standards without reason was not in accordance with law. However, the EPA lost several cases [JURIST report] when it issued regulations limiting emissions that cross state lines. A DC Circuit decision upholding the EPA's plan to add more ethanol to gasoline [JURIST report] marked a rare victory for the EPA last August.

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