Vanderbilt Law Review


Caroline Cecot

First Page



In Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Clean Air Act ("CAA") to require the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to regulate greenhouse gas emissions1 from motor vehicles if the EPA Administrator finds that the emissions endanger public health and welfare ("Endangerment Finding"). In December 2009, the Administrator made such an Endangerment Finding, obligating the EPA to work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") to develop average fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for new light-duty vehicles. After issuing proposals and reviewing comments from the public, the two agencies announced their groundbreaking final regulation ("Tailpipe Rule") in May 2010. The regulation of greenhouse gases from mobile sources under the CAA, however, triggered further greenhouse gas permit requirements for some stationary sources ("Triggering Interpretation"). This prompted the EPA to finalize permitting rules tailored to greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources ("Tailoring Rule"), spawning legal challenges. This Note, at its heart, untangles the motivations behind an important group involved in this litigation: the states. Industry groups, environmental groups, and states filed more than seventy lawsuits challenging or supporting at least one of the EPA's four actions, namely the Endangerment Finding, the Tailpipe Rule, the Triggering Interpretation, and the Tailoring Rule. Significantly, thirty-seven states have either directly filed lawsuits or requested to intervene in support of or against at least one of the four actions." These lawsuits have been consolidated into three cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ("D.C. Circuit"). The litigation frenzy highlights a trend: states are increasingly using the legal system to advance environmental goals.