A federal district court upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2009 finding that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and threaten public health. The EPA issued its finding in response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA was obligated under the Clean Air Act to decide whether greenhouse gases were an air pollutant and, if so, regulate them. More than 60 lawsuits from industry and several states challenged the EPA’s finding and subsequent rules to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases through new standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions and large stationary source emissions. Those suits were consolidated into the case decided by the federal court. In ruling that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct,” the burden now falls on the U.S. Congress to enact legislation if lawmakers seek a change to the EPA’s regulatory approach.
The court ruling affirms the approach taken by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to regulate CO2 emissions within the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards beginning with model year ’12 cars and light-duty trucks. SEMA and the automakers have generally supported the tailpipe regulations since they create a single, national CO2 standard. The revised CAFE standards are also intended to take jobs, safety, consumer choice and technological feasibility into account. With respect to stationary sources, the EPA regulations target the largest emitters, such as power plants and steel and paper mills, requiring them to obtain permits that track emissions and potentially install the best available control technology.
SEMA remains concerned that the U.S. rules will translate into higher energy costs and lower economic growth while not substantially addressing global warming, and that future regulations will target medium and smaller operations.
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