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Court upholds EPA’s authority to cap greenhouse gases

A NASA image shows a layer of air pollution over New York.

Federal circuit appeals court rejects industry challenges

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The EPA will be able to move ahead with setting limits on greenhouse gases after the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia last week rejected a legal challenge from industry and a handful of states.

Pending a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the EPA can continue to gradually reign in pollution from industry, cars, trucks and power plants that’s a clear threat to health and human safety, according to the agency’s original endangerment finding that set the stage for greenhouse gas regulation.

The court ruled that the EPA used the best available science to act under its congressionally established mandate to protect the environment.

Today’s ruling is a strong validation of, in the Court’s own words, the “unambiguously correct” approach we have taken in responding to the 2007 Supreme Court decision,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “I am pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that EPA followed both the science and the law in taking common-sense, reasonable actions to address the very real threat of climate change by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from the largest sources.”

In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are a form of air pollution that the EPA must determine whether or not emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.

The agency subsequently developed an  Endangerment Finding that clearly outlines the threat of greenhouse gases, as well as rules governing emissions from light duty vehicles.

The agency also developed a tailoring Rule, which sets greenhouse gas emission thresholds to define when permits under the New Source Review Prevention Significant Deterioration and title V Operating Permit programs are required for new and existing industrial facilities.

“This is a welcome decision in favor of clean air for our kids and families—and against big polluters,” said Howard Fox, co-counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, and part of a team of attorneys defending EPA’s health and environmental protections.

“Polluting industries such as big coal and big oil oppose action to limit climate change, refusing to modernize and resisting newer technologies. This case underscores these industries’ dogged resistance to safeguards designed to protect the public’s health and the environment,” Fox said.

“Notably, the automobile industry did not join these misguided challenges, but instead opposed these big industrial polluters’ efforts to overturn the standards that apply to cars,” he said.

“Scientists recognize the strong link between burning fossil fuels like coal and global warming. Among many impacts, rising temperatures worsen smog that triggers asthma attacks and other lung ailments. We hope this decision reinforces the EPA’s resolve to move forward with standards to rein-in carbon pollution and other harmful gases from new and existing sources.”

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