Conservative states, business groups, fossil fuel companies, and politicians who deny the science of climate change are petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on greenhouse gases and to weaken the Clean Air Act. This would involve the Court either limiting or reversing its own 2007 decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, which found that the EPA is required to regulate carbon pollution as pollution.
Reuters reported that the Court’s decision of whether or not to take up the petitioners’ case will have a significant impact on future efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The appeals to the Supreme Court follow the DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal to reconsider the matter. The Court is expected to decide whether to hear the petitions in October.
The nine petitions, filed over the last few months, seek review of EPA regulations. Petitioners include: states with fossil fuel-friendly governors like Texas, Alaska, and Virginia; industry groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers; as well as fossil fuel companies like Peabody Energy (the world’s largest private-sector coal company). The petition led by Texas includes as fellow petitioners Gov.Rick Perry (R), Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), who deny the reality of climate science.
Since the Court ruled that CO2 is a pollutant, the EPA found that it was a threat to public health through an endangerment finding:
“Pursuant to CAA section 202(a), the Administrator finds that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.”
In August of 2012, EPA implemented new mileage standards in order to regulate vehicles, and is expected to do the same with stationary sources — primarily power plants. These standards are already reaping benefits for drivers and manufacturers through increased efficiency, lower emissions, and wider inventory selection. Reducing carbon pollution emitted by power plants would slow the dangerous acceleration of climate change, improve air quality, and would be a net economic positive by avoiding “negative health and environmental effects.”
The wide range of petitions present an unusual number of options for the Supreme Court to rein in or overturn Massachusetts v. EPA (there were 5 petitions challenging the Affordable Care Act in 2011). The Court is more likely to take up one of the petitions on narrower grounds, as most experts see broad action as unlikely.