EPA clean air protections for greenhouse gases affirmed as “unambiguously correct”
Polluters are fighting EPA's practical solutions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution
After Massachusetts v. EPA, where the Supreme Court held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, EPA has carried out its responsibility to control these harmful pollutants, focusing on solutions that protect human health and the environment while strengthening our nation's security and saving consumers money. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed EPA’s actions as “unambiguously correct.”
Unfortunately, EPA's common sense solutions are still under attack in a flood of litigation by some of the largest polluters in our nation. They are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the D.C. Circuit Court court’s decision.
One industry coalition leading the legal attack on EPA appears to have been formed for this purpose. Many of those that engaged in litigation to derail these vital pollution reductions are not even subject to the clean air measures in question. For example, large industrial polluters and the State of Texas litigated against clean car standards that are broadly supported by U.S. auto makers and the United Auto Workers.
The D.C. Circuit affirmed these protections on June 26, 2012, after rejecting earlier attempts to block the standards on December 10, 2010. Polluters filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge the standards in April 2013, and EDF joined a broad coalition in asking the Supreme Court to deny the challenges on July 22, 2013.
Protections facing legal challenges
- Long-standing protections to deploy modern pollution controls for large industrial emitters
New industrial facilities and facilities overhauling operations and increasing air pollution have long been required to deploy the best available, cost-effective technology to control their pollution, harmonizing major capital investments in expanded business operations with clean air measures.
The D.C. Circuit found that the Clean Air Act plainly requires modern pollution control technology for "each pollutant subject to regulation" under the Act, including greenhouse gases. EPA's rules implementing the law have long reflected these protections.
Nonetheless, numerous industrial emitters brought legal challenges to EPA's long-standing rules carrying out these protections.
- Climate pollution endangerment finding
In Massachusetts v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court held greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and instructed EPA to determine, on the basis of science, whether these gases endanger human health and welfare
On December 15, 2009, EPA determined, based upon an extensive review of the scientific record, that six greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. EPA based this finding on more than 100 published scientific studies and peer-reviewed syntheses of climate change research by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program/U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
Some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution have challenged the Endangerment Finding, but their challenges were resoundingly rejected by the D.C. Circuit.
- Clean car standards
Consistent with its determination that greenhouse pollution endangers human health and welfare, and that motor vehicles contribute to this serious problem, EPA issued motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards that provide significant environmental, economic, and energy security benefits:
- reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 960 million tons
- saving consumers an estimated $3,000 at the gas pump over the life of the vehicles
- reduced reliance on foreign oil by 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the vehicles
Despite these vital benefits for our nation, a large group of industrial interests and the State of Texas challenged EPA's clean car standards even though none of the auto manufacturers that must actually comply with the clean car standards challenged them. The D.C. Circuit resoundingly rejected these challenges.
- Application of climate pollution protections to largest emitters and tailoring for small sources
Consistent with the statutory duty to apply the best available control technology for each pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act, including greenhouse gas pollution, the requirement for large industrial emitters to implement modern technology took effect when climate pollution was first regulated under the law beginning January 2011.
The Agency also calibrated or "tailored" this requirement to be phased in only for the nation's single largest emitters of climate pollution – excluding small sources from this requirement. Paradoxically, the nation's largest sources of climate pollution like power plants, refineries and manufacturers challenged not only the timing of the implementation of these protections under the Clean Air Act but EPA's careful tailoring of these requirements to exclude small emitters. The Court rejected these challenges, finding that these large sources were not harmed by EPA’s action.