The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler takes a look at the just-announced case of Massachusetts v. EPA and finds that the majority’s arguments on the standing of the parties is less than persuasive. (The Supreme Court decision itself can be found here.)
For non-law geeks, in order for someone to bring a case they must have standing — which means that they must be in some way have something to lose if the case doesn’t go their way. The doctrine of standing as it relates to the Supreme Court comes from Article III of the U.S. Constitution which gives the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over all “Cases and Controversies” arising out of federal law and the Constitution itself. In order to have standing, there are three conditions which must be met: the plaintiff must have suffered some kind of cognizable injury, the cause of that injury must the thing that the plaintiff is seeking relief against, and the judiciary must be able to provide some kind of remedy for that injury. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).
I believe this case was wrongly decided based off a somewhat cursory reading. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts simply did not meet the Article III requirements for standing. If one accepts that global warming is actually global then Massachusetts doesn’t meet the requirement that the injury be a particular one. The harm must also be an imminent one, and no one is realistically arguing that Boston will be underwater tomorrow.
The Supreme Court does not hear hypothetical cases, but in this case that’s exactly what they did. The courts exist to deal with redressable injuries, and global warming hasn’t yet provided any concrete and particular injury to Massachusetts, and there’s no way that a court order against the EPA will prevent global warming from happening. The arguments that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had Article III standing to bring this case seem deeply unpersuasive and based off of Chief Justice Robert’s dissent, the majority had to stretch the doctrine of standing in order to fit this case in.
Even if global warming is a real threat, it is not one that can be solved in the nation’s courtrooms or even the august halls of the Supreme Court. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts showed no real particularized harm, could not show a clear causal connection between the issue at bar and their supposed harm, and there’s no way that making the EPA regulate automobile exhaust will prevent global warming. Massachusetts did not have standing, and this case is yet another example of how judicial activism tramples the rule of law in this country. The issue of global warming does not constitute a justiciable matter, and should never have been heard by the Court.