This morning, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) first-of-its-kind greenhouse gas regulations, dismissing out of hand a variety of challenges from industry and states. The findings uphold the agency's rules defining limits to the emission of greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act. Specifically, the court ruled: Yes, the agency acted properly in determining that CO2 is a danger to public health; yes, it was right to use that determination to regulate vehicles; and yes, it was within its authority to determine the timing (Timing Rule) and scope (Tailoring Rule) of the regulations.
Here's how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided. (At the bottom of this post, you can read the decision itself, via FuelFix.)
1. The Court determined that the EPA absolutely has authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant.
The genesis of this litigation came in 2007, when the Supreme Court held in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases “unambiguous[ly]” may be regulated as an “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). Squarely rejecting the contention -- then advanced by EPA -- that “greenhouse gases cannot be ‘air pollutants’ within the meaning of the Act,” the Court held that the CAA’s definition of “air pollutant” "embraces all airborne compounds of whatever stripe.”
In other words, when the Bush administration EPA was sued by the state of Massachusetts in 2007 for not regulating greenhouse gases, the Supreme Court determined that it unquestionably had the authority to do so. A pollutant is a pollutant, after all, regardless of impact.