Following the three-year anniversary on which the U.S. House passed a national cap-and-trade system that would have limited greenhouse gas emissions, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “unambiguously correct” in its legal rationale behind regulating greenhouse gases.
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reinforced the EPA’s holding that emissions linked to climate change present a veritable risk to public health and welfare. The court also upheld the agency’s regulations on vehicles and new coal-production facilities while dismissing all challenges posed by businesses, industry groups, lawmakers, and other opponents of the new standards.
In countering opponents’ questions over the EPA’s expanding regulatory authority, the three-judge panel balked at critics’ concerns that the agency relied on improper evaluations by the National Research Council, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program to bolster its “evidence” that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and pose a threat to public health.
“This argument is little more than a semantic trick. EPA did not delegate ... any decision-making to any of those entities,” the court affirmed. “EPA simply did here what it and other decision makers often must do to make a science-based judgment. This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”
Tuesday’s ruling granted the EPA “a green light to keep moving forward” on another round of vehicle-emission requirements and a nationwide emission standard for new power plants, averred David Doniger, an attorney for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.
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Photos: EPA Headquarters in Washington (left) and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson