US Chamber may file suit to block EPA climate action

25 August 2009 23:36  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold a full public hearing on greenhouse gases as a health threat, saying that it may file suit if EPA fails to respond.

Repeating a petition it filed with EPA in June, the chamber said it is again requesting a full public hearing on the agency’s expected ruling on greenhouse gases (GHG) as a public health threat because it believes EPA’s rule-making process is flawed.

The EPA on 17 April declared that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and are “very likely” the cause of global warming and must be regulated. 

Before making a final ruling - known as an endangerment finding - the agency invited public comment on the matter for a 60-day period that ended 23 June.

The agency is proposing to regulate and limit greenhouse gas emissions from automobile and other internal combustion engines under provisions of the Clean Air Act and in keeping with a 2007 US Supreme Court ruling which held that EPA has authority under the act to regulate such emissions.

The US chemicals and refining industries and a broad spectrum of other manufacturers oppose EPA regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on grounds that the agency has not established scientifically that such emissions are responsible for global warming or that increasing temperatures would pose a health hazard. They also argue that EPA regulation of CO2 would "de-industrialize" the US.

The US Chamber of Commerce, a private trade association, said in its filing on Tuesday that the some 5,600 comments submitted to EPA by 23 June include fewer than 200 that present any scientific data or significant discussion and that many are unsupported claims.

“EPA has received numerous comments that make largely undocumented and, in the Chamber’s view, insupportable claims about the impacts of climate change on public health and welfare,” the chamber said.

“Those claims range from assertions that climate change may cause mental illness to claims that ‘150,000 people die every year from the effects of global warming’,” the chamber petition said.

“We have reviewed all of the evidence in EPA’s endangerment docket and are deeply troubled by the flaws and omissions underlying the proposed endangerment finding,” the chamber said.

The chamber, which represents about 3m US businesses, charged that EPA has “ignored evidence contradicting its conclusions on a wide range of issues, such as the effect higher temperatures will have on net mortality and levels of other pollutants”.

The petition also alleged that EPA has suppressed a study by two of its staff contending that the agency has relied on outdated studies and that current climate science refutes the proposed endangerment finding.

The chamber said that it believes EPA is rushing to a final ruling on its GHG endangerment finding in order to prod the US Congress to pass comprehensive climate change legislation.

JP Fielder, a spokesman for the chamber, said that the trade group is focused on the hearing process, “but we are considering taking appropriate legal action if EPA fails to hold a full hearing”.

The chamber could file suit in US federal court challenging EPA’s endangerment finding and seek a court injunction against any action by the agency to regulate greenhouse gases until a full scientific hearing can be held.

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