It is being billed as one of the most important environmental decisions in years. It is also a severe rebuke for President Bush. A real poke in the eye, as it were.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from automobiles.

Equally importantly the court also ruled that the Agency could not sidestep its authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change unless it could provide a scientific basis for its refusal. Although the ruling does not force the EPA to regulate auto emissions, it would almost certainly face further legal action if it failed to do so.

This will force the EPA to do something. Under President Bush, the White House has long refused to enforce binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, claiming such a move would damage the economy. But not any longer.

Justice John Paul Stevens said the only way the EPA could “avoid taking further action” now was “if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change” or provide a good explanation why it cannot or will not find out whether they do.