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BREAKING: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds EPA Greenhouse Gas Emission Rules

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"BREAKING: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds EPA Greenhouse Gas Emission Rules"

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by Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today unanimously ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) legal authority to limit industrial carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans’ health.

Carol M. Browner, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress said:

“The Court’s decision should put an end, once and for all, to any questions about the EPA’s legal authority to protect us from industrial carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act. This decision is a devastating blow to those who challenge the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and deny its impact on public health and welfare.”

These rules were challenged in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA. Plaintiffs included the American Petroleum Institute and other major sources of industrial carbon pollution.

The Court affirmed the following EPA policies:

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding, which determined that the latest science demonstrates that climate pollution endangers human health.   This finding was first made by then EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in 2008, following the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. President Bush refused to make this finding, but the Obama administration complied with the law by making it in 2009.
  • The Clean Cars Standards that limit carbon pollution from motor vehicles, primarily by modernizing fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars and light trucks.  In addition to reducing carbon pollution from vehicles by 6 billion tons, these standards will help families save thousands of dollars on gasoline and decrease our dependence on oil.  The standards are supported by U.S. auto makers and the United Auto Workers union, among others.
  • The Timing and Tailoring Rules for carbon pollution standards for new power plants and industrial sources allow EPA to phase-in requirements for cost-effective pollution reduction standards for large industrial emitters first, which covers 70 percent of U.S. carbon pollution.   EPA would not establish reduction standards for bakeries, farms, doughnut shops, and other small pollution sources.

The court dismissed the petitions by industries that would have undercut these rules, including petitions filed in May 2011 by the American Farm Bureau (AFB), and the American Petroleum Institute, asking the court to overturn the timing and tailoring rule. Just last week during a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing about EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer complained about the uncertainty of EPA’s carbon pollution standard. He said that “court challenges to the tailoring rule could make permitting requirements immediately applicable to farmers and ranchers, if the rule is overturned.” Although AFB was a plaintiff to this law suit seeking to overturn the tailoring rule, the Court of Appeal decisively rejected its petition.

As the court’s opinion stated, “This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; Jackie Weidman is a Special Assistant for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.

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12 Responses to BREAKING: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds EPA Greenhouse Gas Emission Rules

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    What, no bitching about the executive branch and lack of progress toward dealing w/climate change?

    This finding was first made by then EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in 2008, following the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. President Bush refused to make this finding, but the Obama administration complied with the law by making it in 2009.

    Etc. “They’re all the same.” Right.

    • Dan Ives says:

      “What, no bitching about the executive branch…”

      Probably because this is a court ruling, which would be the judicial branch, would it not?

      • Doug Bostrom says:

        And what was the subject of the arguments in court?

        Hint: President Bush refused to make this finding, but the Obama administration complied with the law by making it in 2009.

    • Kip Hansen, an AGW denier who posts comments almost daily on Revkin’s Dot Earth blog, claims that this is a case of the Administrative and Judicial branches overstepping their bounds and it’s clearly unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court decides what’s constitutional, and it has already decided. Not much left for the deniers to bitch about — though they will find something, not doubt.

  2. BillD says:

    At least it seems that even the conservatives on the Supreme Court understand the difference between science and nonsense. That’s a good sign!

    • Mark Shapiro says:

      This article is about a lower court (appeals court) ruling, but yes it does follow the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA.

    • Doug Bostrom says:

      Further to both Mark and BillD, DC court of appeals is notably conservative. “Conservative” here meaning principled as opposed to expedient.

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Maybe CP was covering this before, not sure now, so i post this here… must read article.

    US northeast coast is hotspot for rising sea levels
    Report comes after North Carolina senate proposes bill to ban predictions of increase in rates of sea-level rise.

    North Carolina is not the only ‘hotspot’ for efforts by conservatives to legislate away the reality of sea-level rise. In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality removed all references to rising sea levels from a scientific study of Galveston Bay, and two weeks ago, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill commissioning a study on rising sea levels only once references to sea-level rise and climate change had been removed. http://www.nature.com/news/us-northeast-coast-is-hotspot-for-rising-sea-levels-1.10880

    • cac says:

      As a NC resident, our politicians have decided to listen to developers instead of scientists. We are working consistently to change that view. As you know money talks the rest of can move if we don’t like it. People want jobs & improvement of the economy & if scientists are going to hinder that then money wins.

  4. RAB says:

    I encourage everyone to read the Opinion.

    Here’s another gem:

    “[Petitioners] contend that the record evidences too much uncertainty to support that judgment. But the existence of some uncertainty does not, without more, warrant invalidation of an endangerment finding. If a statute is “precautionary in nature” and “designed to protect the public health,” and the relevant evidence is “difficult to come by, uncertain, or conflicting because it is on the frontiers of scientific knowledge,” EPA need not provide “rigorous step-by-step proof of cause and effect” to support an endangerment finding. … As we have stated before, “Awaiting certainty will often allow for only reactive, not preventive, regulation.””

    They then go on to compare with EPA’s limiting lead in the environment without having a completely uncertainty-free case. Brilliant!

    • Mark Shapiro says:

      Right. Getting lead out of gasoline and paint (in the 1970′s) was one of the greatest public health victories of all time.

  5. Barry Saxifrage says:

    Wow. Maybe the courts will prove to be the check and balance that can withstand carbon industry corruption.