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May 18, 2016

Press Release
Dylan Sanders

In landmark decision, Massachusetts’ highest court upholds climate law mandate

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court released its decision 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 landmark decision in the fight to limit greenhouse gas emissions before it is too late,” said partner Dylan Sanders, who represents four high school students, who filed the lawsuit in 2014, along with several environmental groups.

Sanders said it was the first time a court has ruled a state is required to adopt mandatory, measurable annual declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions from multiple sources.

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.”

The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision can be read here.

Additional coverage on the decision: