A New York law institute petitioned U.S. EPA today to start writing rules that take aim at the emissions linked to global warming.
The Institute for Policy Integrity, a nonprofit advocacy group at the New York University School of Law, filed a 29-page petition to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson outlining the reasons why she already has the authority to set up a cap-and-trade system to curb greenhouse gases from motor vehicle fuels, nonroad vehicles and aircraft.
The NYU petition is the first to be filed with the Obama EPA seeking the start of greenhouse gas regulations. Major environmental groups so far have held their fire on the issue, explaining that they were pleased with the relative speed of the new administration in addressing climate after eight years of battle with the George W. Bush administration.
Michael Livermore, the group's executive director, called the document a "friendly petition" designed to nudge the Obama administration into regulatory action on climate change, a move that could also spur action on Capitol Hill.
"We strongly favor legislative action," Livermore said. "We really see what we are doing as complementary to what's happening in Congress."
But the document also serves as a reminder of the political battle over EPA's role in the climate debate. Livermore said his petition could lead to a lawsuit if Congress and EPA don't respond soon.
And opponents of greenhouse gas curbs, including many congressional Republicans, have warned of a regulatory avalanche from EPA that would stymie economic development across the country. Obama administration officials insist that EPA rules would not be as broad as their opponents warn.
Testifying last week to the Senate Agriculture Committee, EPA's Jackson didn't have a specific answer when asked about her schedule for finalizing an "endangerment finding" that would list carbon dioxide as a pollutant subject to federal regulations. For now, she said, EPA is reviewing thousands of public comments on its proposal to launch the regulatory process for climate change.
Jackson has also said she would prefer that Congress act on climate change rather than leave the issue to EPA.
Former EPA General Counsel Roger Martella, who served under President George W. Bush, said the law school petition would have minimal effect on the agency's regulatory agenda.
"It's fair to say that EPA still has a fair amount of flexibility regarding the timeline of when it finalizes the endangerment determination," he said.
EPA officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the petition.
Click here for the NYU petition.
Reporter Robin Bravender contributed.