Massachusetts’ Highest Court to Consider Commonwealth’s Failure to Adopt Climate Regulations

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Parties claim MA defied legal obligation to set greenhouse gas emission standards

October 6, 2015 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) announced today that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the highest court in the Commonwealth, has chosen to hear its case concerning the Commonwealth’s failure to issue legally-mandated regulations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions statewide. This case is brought by CLF, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance and four Massachusetts teenagers, with Columbia Environmental Law Clinic serving as co-counsel.

“Massachusetts is already experiencing the dangerous impacts of climate change and has a landmark law in place to address it,” said Bradley Campbell, President of Conservation Law Foundation. “But the Commonwealth has failed to implement this law, sacrificing New England’s leadership role in finding solutions to the challenge of our age. We are grateful that the SJC is giving affected communities their day in court in the face of the Commonwealth’s inexcusable inaction.”

The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) was passed in 2008 and requires the Commonwealth to achieve a 25% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. According to this law, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection must adopt regulations to reach these targets by January 2012 and must implement them by January 2013. To date, no such regulations have been adopted.

Eugenia Gibbons, Clean Energy Program Director at Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, added, “We are convinced that the most cost effective path towards meeting the legislative requirements of GWSA depends on comprehensive regulations. In the absence of regulations, we are seeing a series of haphazard and insufficient efforts that might make sense in the short-term as individual items, but that fail to put Massachusetts on the right path. Without regulations, the Commonwealth will not meet its obligations under GWSA, but more than that, over time we residents will feel the weight of this inaction on our pocket books, our health, and the environment.”

The SJC will also be hearing three additional cases brought by CLF regarding the enforceability of the GWSA. These cases relate to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ approval of contracts between three local gas distribution utilities and Kinder Morgan that lay the groundwork for a new pipeline to carry an additional 200 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. CLF contends that approving these contracts – contracts that make neither economic nor environmental sense – also defies the Commonwealth’s legal obligations under the GWSA. More information on these cases can be found here.

Experts are available for further comment.