In Landmark Decision, Massachusetts’ Highest Court Upholds Climate Law Mandate


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Josh Block
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Supreme Judicial Court orders new statewide regulations for carbon pollution

May 17, 2016 (BOSTON, MA) – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court released its decision today in Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), affirming the State’s obligations under the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and ordering the Commonwealth to create and implement regulations to meet its carbon emission reduction mandates. In the opinion by Justice Cordy, the Court sided with Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Massachusetts Energy Consumer Alliance, and four teenage plaintiffs in asserting that DEP failed its legal obligation to enforce the GWSA.

“This is a historic day,” said Jenny Rushlow, CLF’s lead attorney on the case. “Today our highest court declared clearly and unequivocally that our leaders can no longer sit on their hands while Massachusetts communities are put at risk from the effects of climate change. Thanks to this landmark decision, our role as a national leader in battling climate change has only been stalled but not sacrificed. Now, with action from DEP, we can get back on track and ensure that the health of our families and future generations is always a top priority.”

In the opinion, Justice Cordy wrote that “the purpose of [the Global Warming Solutions Act] is to attain actual, measurable, and permanent emission reductions in the Commonwealth, and the Legislature included [the relevant section] in the statute to ensure that legally mandated reductions are realized by the 2020 deadline.” Justice Cordy also wrote that the relevant section of the Global Warming Solutions Act is “unambiguous” and “requires the department to promulgate regulations that establish volumetric limits on multiple greenhouse gas emissions sources…[that] must decline on an annual basis.”

Eugenia Gibbons, Clean Energy Program Director at Massachusetts Energy Consumer Alliance, commented, “With this decision, the administration can now get down to business, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in very specific ways.  As a consumer group, we’re confident that the next steps taken will be cost-effective and transparent.”

The plaintiffs in this case were represented by CLF, Columbia Environmental Law Clinic, and Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.

Experts are available for further comment. The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision can be read here.

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