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Kain v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection,

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20058
Nos. SUCV2O14-02551, (Mass. Super. Ct., 03/23/2015)

A Massachusetts court dismissed residents' lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the state's environmental agency failed to comply with §3(d) of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA is a legislative scheme designed to address the effects of climate change in Massachusetts by promoting "green" economic initiatives and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. GWSA §3(d) required the agency to "promulgate regulations establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emission" by January 1, 2012. When the agency failed to do so, the residents petitioned it to issue regulations that would strictly control greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to §3(d). But the agency denied the petition, concluding that it had already complied with all requirements of the GWSA, including those set forth in §3(d). The residents then filed the instant action, arguing that the statute requires the agency to issue strict numerical, enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The agency, on the other hand, asserted that the law mandates only that it establish aspirational or "target" emissions levels for sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It further argued that it has satisfied the mandate through its development of three separate regulatory schemes: sulfur hexafluoride leakage limits; a carbon dioxide allowances market; and a Low Emission Vehicle program. The court ruled in favor of the agency. Under either interpretation of the statute, and according the agency the deference to which it is entitled by law, the agency fulfilled the essential mandate of §3(d).