CLIMATE:

EPA rejects 10 'endangerment' challenges

U.S. EPA announced the rejection today of 10 petitions that asked the agency to reconsider the "endangerment" finding that has provided the basis for regulation of greenhouse gases.

Administrator Lisa Jackson said the petitions "assert a conspiracy" that is not borne out by science.

The petitions from business groups and limited government advocates urged EPA to rethink its decision in light of the controversy prompted by the release of e-mails stored by a climate research center at the University of East Anglia. They also cited errors in the 2007 report by the United Nations-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The e-mails and errors did not invalidate the conclusion, reached by the IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, that greenhouse gases are a threat to health and welfare, Jackson said in a statement.

"The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination," Jackson said. "Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy. A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security."

Along with a 217-page notice of its decision to reject the petitions, EPA also published today a three-volume, 366-page response to the petitions. All the petitions "fail to meet the criteria for reconsideration under the Clean Air Act," the agency's as-yet unpublished decision concludes.

The agency's tone drew criticism from Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent climate skeptic and the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee. EPA should have delayed its rules and examined climate science "in an open forum," he said in a statement.

"EPA chose instead to dismiss legitimate concerns about data quality, transparency, and billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded science as products of 'conspiracies,'" Inhofe said. "Such ad hominem attacks are products of closed-mindedness and ultimately harm EPA's reputation and legal standing in court."

The endangerment finding required EPA to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from automobiles. Those regulations, finalized earlier this year, triggered a requirement that the agency also regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources such as power plants, refineries and factories.

The petitions rejected today were filed by the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Ohio Coal Association, the Pacific Legal Foundation, Peabody Energy Co., the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the states of Texas and Virginia, and one private citizen.

Court challenges

Those groups have also filed petitions for judicial review with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which froze the cases to give EPA time to make its decision. Today's announcement means the court challenges should soon move forward.

Under the order issued last month, the groups will be required to file motions in the proceedings by Aug. 12.

Todd Young, policy director at the Southeast Legal Foundation, said the group will appeal the decision in federal court as soon as tomorrow. The group will simultaneously move to restart its previous petition, he said.

William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said EPA's denial of the petitions was unsurprising considering the agency's decision to move forward with rulemaking on climate regulations. The petitions for reconsideration are just the first in a series of challenges to each step in the regulatory process, he added.

"I would imagine the biggest legal case will go on down the line when it gets to the regulatory ramifications," Yeatman said. "EPA has certainly reinterpreted if not rewritten the Clean Air Act."

Environmental groups praised the agency's decision to reject the petitions and proceed with greenhouse gas regulations. For proponents of action on global warming, the regulations have taken on added importance with Congress looking increasingly unlikely to move on climate.

"Although legislative efforts have unfortunately stalled, the way is now clear for EPA to get on with its work to regulate greenhouse gases and other climate-forcing agents under the Clean Air Act," said Ann Weeks, senior counsel at Clean Air Task Force, in a statement. "EPA's efforts should start, as they already have, with regulation of cars and light trucks and emissions from the largest stationary sources of these air pollutants, including coal-fired power plants."

Click here to read the agency's decision.

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