Environmentalists Fire Back Against Oil Industry in Lawsuit over Greenhouse Gas Regulation
WASHINGTON — Environmentalists tried this week to strike down efforts by oil industry supporters who are challenging U.S. government warnings about greenhouse gasses.
They filed a brief that urged a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to dismiss a lawsuit by the pro-fossil fuel groups against the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA issued the warnings about health and welfare consequences in 2009 prior to a regulatory crackdown on greenhouse gas emissions.
The lawsuit by Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council and others says the EPA is unrealistic in its fossil fuel restrictions while endangering the economy. They also claim the EPA warnings are not well established by science.
The environmentalists’ brief filed this week says the plaintiffs have no legal basis for a right to sue the EPA.
They failed to explain how the EPA warnings hurt them or anyone else, which is a prerequisite to any right to sue, the brief says.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in previous cases that the EPA findings of danger from greenhouse gasses are well supported. Other evidence comes from the United Nations and scientific groups.
“The Clean Air Act and this court’s precedents do not lightly allow for relitigation of agency determinations that have been subject to a comprehensive public rulemaking process and judicial review,” the environmentalists’ brief says. “Petitioners’ briefs fail to grapple with the robust body of law and the great weight of evidence supporting EPA’s 2009 finding and its subsequent reaffirmations.”
In 2009, the EPA declared that carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride create a health hazard with current atmospheric concentrations.
The D.C. Circuit upheld the EPA’s endangerment warning in its 2012 ruling in Coalition for Responsible Regulation et al. v. EPA et al. The U.S. Supreme Court let the ruling stand on appeal.
The EPA issued the endangerment warning before beginning a new round of tougher emission regulations on power plants.
The agency gained greater legal support last year when Congress approved the Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation aims to curb inflation by reducing the deficit, lowering prescription drug prices and by promoting domestic clean energy.
The Inflation Reduction Act identifies the six greenhouse gasses listed by the EPA’s 2009 endangerment warning as pollutants subject to Clean Air Act regulation.
“These provisions express Congress’s own judgment that each of these compounds falls within the definition of ‘air pollutant,’ which applies throughout the act,” the environmentalists’ brief says. “Furthermore, the Inflation Reduction Act requires that EPA use existing Clean Air Act regulatory authorities to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses. Because those Clean Air Act provisions authorize EPA to regulate emissions of ‘air pollutants,’ they further confirm that greenhouse gasses are indeed such pollutants.”
The brief responds to statements made in the lawsuit by the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council, which was joined in suing by the FAIR Energy Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Texas Public Policy Foundation.
They petitioned the EPA beginning in 2017 to overturn its endangerment findings but the agency refused. They then sued in federal court to override the EPA.
The oil industry supporters said the EPA’s endangerment finding has set the nation on “a technically and economically impossible crusade to decarbonize the U.S. economy.”
The lawsuit revives some of the issues in last June’s Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, which angered environmentalists.
The case focused on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which required power plants to implement clean energy technology, such as solar panels and wind generators. The EPA drew authority from the Clean Air Act.
Several states and coal companies sued to block the plan.
The Supreme Court ruled that Congress never gave the EPA authority to require power plants to use specific technologies to comply with the Clean Air Act. The agency could regulate emissions from existing power plants but not interfere with their choice of how they generate electricity.
Similarly, Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council is once again arguing the EPA exceeds its authority with its warning about the greenhouse gasses.
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