CLIMATE:

Ala., Va. file petitions, join 'endangerment' foes in U.S. court

Alabama, Virginia and several industry groups have added petitions to a growing list of court challenges against U.S. EPA's "endangerment" finding for greenhouse gas emissions.

The lawsuits in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia include challenges from a range of state, industry and global warming skeptic groups. The groups want the court to review EPA's determination that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a finding that opens the door for federal rules aimed at curbing those emissions.

Attorneys General Troy King (R) of Alabama and Kenneth Cuccinelli II (R) of Virginia were among those that filed petitions for review today. The state of Texas also announced plans today to challenge the finding (Greenwire, Feb. 16).

The American Iron and Steel Institute and Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. also filed petitions today, adding to those filed Friday by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Mining Association and Peabody Energy Co.

Any legal challenges against the finding must be filed with the court before midnight tonight, and additional petitions are expected. Observers expect the court to consolidate the challenges to the finding over the next several weeks (Greenwire, Feb. 15).

Three additional petitions have been filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Atlanta-based Southeastern Legal Foundation Inc. on behalf of 13 House Republicans and business associations; and a coalition of groups including the Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc., coal and mining companies and livestock producers.

A coalition of 16 states and New York City has also asked to intervene on behalf of EPA in the endangerment case (Greenwire, Jan. 25).

The free-market think tanks Competitive Enterprise Institute and FreedomWorks also plan to file a petition along with the global warming skeptic organizations Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change and Science and Environmental Policy Project, CEI attorney Sam Kazman said today.

Environmentalists today blasted the petitioners for challenging EPA's determination, which was made in response to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare.

"There are companies devoting resources to hiring new engineers, wind technicians and buying hard hats, and then there are companies pouring resources into high-priced K Street lawyers, and these choices are revealing about who is looking forward to win the race in building our nation's clean-energy economy and who is bogged down in the same old obstructionist tactics of the past," said Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Plaintiffs are not required to raise specific allegations in their initial court filings, but many of the challengers have raised concerns about the science used to support EPA's determination, particularly in light of recent controversies surrounding the work of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. EPA relied heavily upon IPCC reports when crafting its finding.

EPA said yesterday that it remains confident that the finding will withstand legal challenge. "The Agency made an affirmative finding following an exhaustive review of the peer-reviewed science and thousands of public comments submitted in an open and transparent process," EPA said.

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