EPA greenhouse gas emissions rules face new legal and political attacks

by Ben Geman
The Hill
12/29/2009

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under its existing authority are facing new attacks — both legally and politically.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urges the agency to back off a proposal that would require large emissions sources like power plants and refineries to eventually minimize their greenhouse gas output.

Louisiana is home to many refineries and is also a major oil- and gas-producing state. “Implementation of the proposed rules will have a dramatic chilling effect on the refining and production capability of our state,” Jindal writes.

Obama administration officials say they want Congress to create a new system for controlling heat-trapping gases, but that EPA will impose limits under its Clean Air Act authority if lawmakers do not act.

EPA is moving ahead based on its recent “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten human health and welfare. A 2007 Supreme Court decision found that EPA could regulate greenhouse gases if it reached such a conclusion.

But an industry coalition that includes cattle producers and mining companies challenged the endangerment finding in federal court last week.

The Dec. 23 petition for review des not lay out specific claims, but an attorney representing the groups said the lawsuit will attack the scientific underpinnings of EPA’s finding.

Paul Phillips, a partner with the firm Holland and Hart LLP, said EPA cherry-picked scientific findings. “EPA pre-selected the outcome it wanted and shaped the science to fit that result,” he said.

But EPA and other advocates of emissions cuts say there is overwhelming scientific evidence that emissions from burning fossil fuels and other activities are causing dangerous climatic changes.

The coalition that filed the lawsuit includes the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Massey Energy, a major coal mining company. The challenge was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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