Court Says: Read My Lips, EPA Can Regulate Greenhouse Gases

Each time major industrial polluters and various states go back to court trying to undo the Supreme Court decision that gives the EPA the right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the court confirms the validity of those rules.

But they just keep going back, re-opening the case again and again. After hearing the case again in June following a 2010 case, yesterday the US Court of Appeals refused to hear the case once again.

Even this may not stop the challenge, which could go back to the Supreme Court.

Besides refusing to take on the Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding again, the court also threw out petitions questioning Clean Car Standards, the ones that are increasing the fuel economy of cars and trucks.

In the original opinion by Chief Judge David Sentelle, appointed to the Court by President Ronald Regan, the court held EPA’s interpretation of the nation’s clean air laws was "unambiguously correct."

Who is it that keeps the litigation process going?

Some of the biggest polluters in the US, including the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, National Association of Manufacturers, and an industry coalition formed solely for this purpose that’s linked to the owner of largest private U.S. coal reserves, Quintana Minerals.

They contend the rules are burdensome for business and that  EPA relied on faulty scientific data to draw its conclusions.

"Many of those that engaged in litigation to derail these vital pollution reductions are not even subject to the clean air measures in question. For example, large industrial polluters and the State of Texas litigated against clean car standards that are broadly supported by US auto makers and the United Auto Workers," says the Environmental Defense Fund.

US auto makers and a dozen states (California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) intervened in defense of EPA’s clean car standards.

What are the polluters looking to eliminate?

Long-standing rules that require large industrial emitters to install modern pollution prevention technology.

New industrial facilities and those overhauling operations must deploy the best available, cost-effective technology to control their pollution, harmonizing major capital investments in expanded business operations with clean air measures.

The D.C. Circuit found the Clean Air Act plainly requires modern pollution control technology for "each pollutant subject to regulation" under the Act, including greenhouse gases.

The Obama administration has pushed ahead with the first-ever emissions limits on new coal-fired power plants, and could do the same for existing power plants in his second term.

Climate pollution endangerment finding

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court held greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and instructed EPA to determine, on the basis of science, whether these gases endanger human health and welfare.

On December 15, 2009, EPA determined, based on an extensive review of the scientific evidence, that six greenhouse gases endanger public health.

Clean car standards

Consistent with its determination that greenhouse pollution endangers human health, and that motor vehicles contribute to this serious problem, EPA issued motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards.

Those standards will cut carbon pollution by more than the amount emitted by the entire US last year, while cutting foreign oil imports in half, and saving $8,000 per vehicle in fuel costs. And they’ll create 150,000 jobs.

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