In a week dominated by presidential campaign announcements, Afghanistan war plans and a spat between Al Gore and President Obama, an interesting Supreme Court ruling flew under the radar.

The high court ruled that the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions rests with the Environmental Protection Agency and not the judicial system. Writing for the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the current law that allows for the EPA to implement carbon dioxide policies does not allow for, “a parallel track to control greenhouse gas emissions by federal judges.”

What this all boils down to is that if the EPA’s current plans to implement a climate policy by May of 2012 don’t happen, then there will be no alternative option. This could be significant because Congress’ feelings about any carbon regulation has been cooling at about the same rate the planet’s been warming over the last few years.

In the last twelve months, attempts by the Senate to essentially veto the EPA’s authority to implement an emissions policy have narrowly failed. And support for a Jay Rockefeller plan that would push the May 2012 deadline back two years is said to be strong. The Senate has authority to essentially approve or disapprove of policies implemented by the executive branch agencies like the EPA, under the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which came into law as part of the Contract with America.

The result of both the current political and legal realities is further proof that what the EPA decides and how the Senate reacts will be the ultimate showdown when it comes to climate policy. There may not be a “parallel track,” but the opportunity for the Senate to derail remains wide opened.

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