Court Battle Brews Over EPA Role in Regulating CO2 Emissions

© Jim Motavalli

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard preliminary arguments last week in a case in which a coalition of 12 states and a handful of environmental groups charge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with neglecting its responsibility to protect public health by regulating tailpipe emissions that contribute to global warming.

New York, California, and 10 other states have joined forces with Greenpeace and other advocacy groups in arguing that the federal Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate any air pollutant—including carbon dioxide—that may hurt public health or welfare.

While EPA officials have acknowledged the risks of global warming, they maintain that their agency does not regulate greenhouse gas emissions because Congress has not granted it such authority under the Clean Air Act.

Meanwhile, the court will also hear arguments from 10 other states, most notably Michigan where the automakers are headquartered, who say the EPA should stay out of the carbon dioxide regulation business, citing concerns about increased regulation leading to higher prices for automobiles.

According to analysts watching the case, a decision from the court either turning the regulation of greenhouse gases over to the EPA or ruling in favor of the status quo could take several months.