The decision in Massachusetts v. EPA came down this morning. I can’t help but agree with the Chief Justice on this one- the Court never should have reached the merits, because petitioners don’t have standing to bring the claim. According to Wikipedia, there are three elements to Article III standing:
- Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury – an invasion of a legally protected interest which is concrete and particularized. The injury must be actual or imminent, distinct and palpable, not abstract. This injury could be economic as well as non-economic.
- Causation: There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, so that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent action of some third party who is not before the court.
- Redressability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).
Sure, the standing rule is abstract, and sure it’s been used as a cop-out in the past (see Allen v. Wright, or City of Los Angeles v. Lyons). But even granted that shoreline erosion is an actual injury to the State of Massachusetts, and even given that the EPA’s failure to regulate greenhouse emissions is the _cause_ of that injury (this point is manifestly unclear), there is no reason to believe that this decision will be likely to provide redress, or in fact that ANY decision by the court in this limited controversy could provide remedy to the global problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
The court may as well have issued mandamus against the President, ordering him to sign the Kyoto treaty. Presented with a well-documented problem, the majority gave in to the all-too-human urge to do SOMETHING instead of NOTHING; so in this case the standing question was wrongly decided because of the strong motivation to consider the merits of the case.
This new interpretation of redressability, requiring only the most tenuous connection to real-world results, will have repercussions far beyond any effect it might have in mitigating global warming. Whether new permissiveness in federal litigation results in good or ill remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: this decision will result in more lawsuits in many areas of federal regulation by all fifty States of the Union.