Litigating Climate Change: Conservatives, Firms Take EPA To Court Over Regulatory Authority

A group of conservative Republican House members has banded together with a collection of small- and medium-sized businesses and an Atlanta-based conservative public interest law firm to file a legal challenge to an EPA finding that lays the foundation for the agency to regulate carbon emissions.

Representing 13 U.S. representatives, 17 companies and associations and itself, the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) Wednesday says that it filed a petition for judicial review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, challenging the endangerment finding on carbon dioxide emissions issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December.

“Representing a group of well-informed and concerned Americans, including leaders in Congress who have been intimately involved in climate change issues for more than a decade, SLF has filed this important court action to enforce the rule of law and prevent the unprecedented power grab by the EPA and this administration,” says Shannon Goessling, SLF executive director and chief legal counsel. “The goal is to compel the federal government to follow the laws as enacted by Congress and to pursue legitimate public policy based on legitimate scientific data. The American people deserve no less, and the U.S. Constitution mandates it.”

The EPA announced in December that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat. Greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; increased virulence of diseases; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans, the EPA finds.

EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gas emissions fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the carbon-emissions standards proposed earlier last year by the Obama administration for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

That endangerment finding was a reversal by the EPA, which under the Bush administration, refused to issue such a finding after the high court ruling.

Among the lawmakers who have joined the SLF lawsuit against the endangerment finding are GOP Reps. John Linder of Georgia, Dana Rohrabacher of California, Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, Tom Price of Georgia, Steve King of Iowa, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Joe Barton of Texas. Corporate participants in the lawsuit include Georgia Motor Trucking Association; Georgia Agribusiness Council; Langdale Chevrolet – Pontiac, Inc.; and Southeast Trailer Mart, Inc.

The plantiffs rest much of their case on the so-called “climategate” scandal in which climate researchers knowingly manipulated and hid data that would supposedly undermine the scientific case for manmade global warming.

“The scientific basis for the EPA Endangerment Finding is flawed, based on questionable and potentially fraudulent data, and certainly does not rise to the level of certainty necessary to upend the American economy, toss millions out of work, and which promises little or no climate change benefit over the next half-century,” says Goessling. “The reality is that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are crumbling beneath the weight of scientific exposure, and the EPA has tied itself to the IPCC reports lock, stock and barrel.”

Although some Republicans and corporations have signed on to the SLF lawsuit, others accept — and even are eager for — carbon emissions regulations. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been working with Democratic colleagues to craft a bipartisan carbon cap-and-trade regime. Such corporations as Chrysler, Duke Energy, PepsiCo and others see business opportunities under a carbon cap-and-trade system.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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