EPA carbon regulation upheld in D.C. appeals court

According to the three-judge panel's opinion, EPA regulations could target polluters without fear of legal challenges

Washington, D.C., June 27, 2012 — The Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a public health hazard was upheld again June 26 by a federal appeals court.

The opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the EPA's estimation of its own powers, as provided for under the Clean Air Act, is correct. According to the three-judge panel's opinion, EPA regulations could target polluters without fear of legal challenges.

The decision is a win not only for the EPA, but also for environmentalist groups and the Obama administration. It represents a setback for trade groups and coal-producing states whose members of Congress have opposed more government regulation.

The EPA's endangerment finding on carbon dioxide could lead to the regulation of fossil-fired power plants; vehicles including light trucks and cars; and industrial facilities. The largest single source of carbon pollution in the U.S. is the power generation sector, according to the EPA.

The court also said it lacked jurisdiction to review the timing and scope of greenhouse gas regulations on stationary sources of carbon pollution, such as coal-fired power plants and other carbon-emitting facilities.

This ruling clears the way for the EPA to proceed with its rulemaking process and form regulations on newly built power plants. Trade groups opposed to regulation have said these regulations will eventually lead to job losses and higher energy costs. The EPA has said that regulating harmful pollutants will save thousands of lives and prevent diseases in children and the elderly.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 in Massachusetts vs. EPA that greenhouse gases are a harmful pollutant and thus could be regulated under the powers granted to the EPA in the Clean Air Act. In 2007, the EPA issued its endangerment finding on carbon pollution, calling greenhouse gases a danger to public health.

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