The Supreme Court Monday left intact a ruling that gave federal officials a deadline for approving tougher air pollution controls for two Arizona metropolitan areas.
The justices, without comment, rejected Bush administration arguments that a federal appeals court ruling improperly limited the government's power in developing plans for improving regional air quality.The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last May gave the Environmental Protection Agency six months to adopt a new plan for reducing carbon monoxide in Phoenix and Tucson and surrounding areas in Maricopa and Pima counties, respectively.
The deadline was Nov. 26, but federal officials were granted a two-month extension.
Justice Department lawyers said the appeals court exceeded its authority and may be in conflict with a Supreme Court ruling issued last June.
In that decision, the justices reinforced the EPA's power to seek fines against air polluters even when federal officials have been slow to approve plans for cleaning up the atmosphere. The June decision permitted EPA enforcement when the agency arguably has missed its own deadlines for adopting new rules.
The appeal adopted Monday said the Arizona case should be restudied in light of that ruling. But state residents seeking stricter pollution controls said the June decision is irrelevant to the case.
The residents sued the EPA, claiming pollution control plans it has approved for the two metropolitan areas are inadequate.
The agency required gas stations to sell high oxygen content fuel during winter months when carbon monoxide levels are highest; large challengers said additional measures are needed, including expanded mass transit, parking controls, bus and car pool highway lanes, reduced bus fares and reduced truck travel during peak periods.
The court also:
- Left intact a lawsuit settlement that eased restrictions on abortion clinics in Illinois. The court, without comment, rejected an appeal by two nurses and two expectant fathers who said the settlement does not adequately protect women or fetuses.
- Agreed to decide if police are under more legal restrictions when they conduct a search with the full consent of a suspect than when they first obtain a search warrant.
- Left intact an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that forces car dealerships to defend themselves in Iowa courts. The dealerships had argued that Iowa's courts have no authority over them.
- Let stand the decision of Mississippi officials to suspend the medical license of a doctor on the grounds of mental instability, despite conflicting testimony from psychiatrists about whether the doctor was mentally ill.
- Shielded businesses from some big-money lawsuits filed by employees who claim they were fired so their employers would not have to pay pension benefits.
- Strengthened the right of criminal suspects to have lawyers present when they are questioned by police. By a 6-2 vote, the justices overturned the murder conviction of Mississippi death row inmate Robert S. Minnick, who confessed when he was questioned without his lawyer present.
- Ruled that a federal anti-counterfeiting law may be used to crack down on the sale of used cars with phony mileage readings.