Some 24 states, environmental groups, trade associations, and conservative organizations sued the Environmental Protection Agency this week, challenging its plan to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
The lawsuits would block or modify EPA’s attempt to reduce emissions from large industrial greenhouse gas sources. The agency’s regulation is based on its “endangerment” finding that greenhouse gases, including CO2, endanger public health and should therefore be regulated. Suits came from those on both sides of the issue: groups that back EPA’s approach but want to make it broader, and industry groups and states that oppose EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act to cut CO2 emissions.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA could regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. As a result, EPA said last December that it would do so and began the regulatory process for controlling CO2 and five other greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles, electric utilities, chemical companies, and other sources (C&EN, Dec. 14, 2009, page 7).
Since then, EPA has moved ahead with final regulations for motor vehicles and is just now developing regulations for industrial sources. The deadline for filing litigation to block the agency was Aug. 2.
The agency, however, remains adamant in its push to move ahead. When recently challenged by petitions from 10 states, trade associations, and conservative organizations that opposed EPA on scientific grounds, agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson denied the petitions, saying, “The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world.” She chided the petitioners, urging them to join “the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation.”
The importance of EPA’s proposed regulation grows as Congress appears unable to muster support for legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Just last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) withdrew a weak energy bill from Senate consideration. The bill included a few energy provisions, but it primarily proposed to remove a cap on offshore oil spill liability, which Republicans and a smattering of Democrats opposed. Earlier, Reid also dropped efforts to introduce a cap-and-trade bill, saying it lacked sufficient support (C&EN, Aug. 2, page 12).