US groups to seek fast court action against regulator on climate

30 August 2010 22:39  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US trade groups are expected to soon ask federal courts to temporarily block plans by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate industrial emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), sources said on Monday.

Multiple trade and industry groups along with at least two state governments have filed lawsuits challenging the agency’s plans to begin imposing limits in January on greenhouse gas emissions by electric utilities and other major manufacturing or production facilities.

The court cases may take years to resolve, but in the meantime those seeking to overturn the EPA’s greenhouse gases rules are expected to seek a court order to stay or halt implementation of those regulations until the years-long court review is completed.

A source said that motions seeking such court injunctions could be filed this week or next.

The agency ruled in December 2009 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cause global warming that could harm the US environment or human health, and that the EPA consequently has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate and limit those emissions.

That so-called “endangerment finding” is being challenged in some lawsuits on grounds that the EPA relied on unproven science in reaching its global warming conclusions. 

Other lawsuits do not challenge the science underlying the EPA’s endangerment finding but instead contend that the agency did not follow proper procedures in reaching its conclusion.

In addition, other lawsuits target the EPA’s so-called “tailoring rule”, issued in May.

In that ruling, the agency said that it was limiting enforcement of its emissions regulations under the endangerment finding initially to only those major facilities that emit 75,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gases annually.

However, as written by Congress, the Clean Air Act requires EPA regulation of any pollutant in excess of 250 tonnes annually.

The lawsuits challenging the EPA’s tailoring rule contend that the agency has no administrative authority to unilaterally amend the Clean Air Act, as laid down by legislators in Congress.

Petrochemical producers, refiners and general manufacturing interests argue that the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases will bring US industrial development to a standstill.

Separately, legislation is pending in the US Senate and House that would delay for two years EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, allowing Congress time to craft and pass a comprehensive climate change bill.

But the fate of that measure is uncertain in the eight weeks remaining on the congressional calendar before the 2 November US general elections. Even if Congress should approve that bill, the White House has said that President Barack Obama would veto it.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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