November 2, 2010

EPA's efforts to regulate CO2 challenged in court

The Obama administration's move to curb greenhouse gases using the Environmental Protection Agency has drawn legal challenges from more than 90 companies and trade associations, giving the courts another opening to shape U.S. climate policy in the absence of legislative action.

The most recent lawsuit attacking the EPA's climate policy was filed Thursday by the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation. The conservative group is challenging EPA's so-called endangerment finding, which concluded that greenhouse gases posed a risk to public health. The finding is the basis of proposed EPA regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions using the Clean Air Act.

EPA has denied numerous requests to reconsider its endangerment finding. The agency says its findings are rooted in science and claims "these types of arguments are based on a manufactured controversy and provide no evidence to undermine our determination," an EPA spokesman said.

The courts have already played a central role in the nation's climate change debate. The U.S. Supreme Court got the ball rolling when it decided in 2007 that EPA could regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

In addition to its endangerment finding, EPA adopted a rule in April that set greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and light trucks. In May, EPA passed a "tailoring rule" that outlines which types of facilities have to obtain greenhouse-gas permits.

The climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last year would have substituted a more flexible cap and trade system for the EPA's clean air rules. That bill is unlikely to move forward in the Senate.

While litigation over the EPA's climate rules churns through the lower courts, some members of Congress are calling for legislation to block the agency from using the Clean Air act to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), for example, has introduced a bill to delay EPA's work on the issue for two years and has already recruited dozens of supporters in the Senate. Some Republican lawmakers have also supported action to stop the EPA climate rules.

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