LITIGATION:

States, enviro groups urge court to let EPA climate rules proceed

Days after the Obama administration asked a federal court not to stop U.S. EPA's climate program from taking effect on Jan. 2, a coalition of 20 states and 13 environmental groups has pledged its support for the agency, saying that despite "extravagant claims of harm" from industry, the new greenhouse gas regulations would hardly hurt them.

Those states, led by New York, are lined up against 17 states that are challenging the agency's plan to begin regulating greenhouse gases from large power plants, factories and other major emissions sources.

All opposing states but Texas are "ready, willing and able" to begin issuing stationary source permits at the beginning of next year, the new brief says, undermining claims that EPA's rules will lead to a construction shutdown across much of the country.

Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have cited those concerns in asking the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to place a stay on the new regulations. With climate legislation stalled in Congress, challengers are throwing their weight behind efforts to block EPA's regulations in the courtroom and on Capitol Hill.

New York and its partners say the industry groups are pointing to economic harm when their "real quarrel" is with the Clean Air Act.

The law, their brief says, "obligates EPA to issue an endangerment determination based on science, and to issue motor vehicle standards once an endangerment determination is made, and which expressly extends preconstruction permitting requirements to sources of 'each pollutant subject to regulation' under the Act."

Many of the states that signed on to yesterday's brief had petitioned EPA to begin regulating greenhouse gases in the first place. Those petitions led to the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which said EPA had to decide whether to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

The rules would have enough of an environmental impact to justify leaving them in place, the new brief argues.

Even if the Department of Transportation's fuel economy rules were left in place, blocking new greenhouse gas limits on cars and light-duty trucks would result in an additional 35.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, it says. There are also at least 21 major coal-fired power plants and oil refineries in line to get permits next year, meaning a stay would prevent EPA from addressing sources with the potential to emit between 30 million and 90 million tons of CO2 per year.

"Even a one-year stay would result in the release of many millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise have been avoided under the rules," the brief says. "Furthermore, the damage from these emissions would persist for well over a century, given the long atmospheric lifetime of greenhouse gas pollutants, contributing to climate change for many years."

Click here to read the brief.