The E.P.A. can now regulate greenhouse gases. A federal appeals court agreed with the E.P.A. that greenhouse gases endanger public health, which means that the agency has the authority to limit emissions under the Clean Air Act. This decision is a major blow to the coal industry.
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided that the Environmental Protection Agency (“E.P.A.”) was correct in its assertion that the Clean Air Act requires the federal government to impose limits on the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. In 2007, the E.P.A. argued that it did not have the power to regulate greenhouse gases, but the Supreme Court ruled at that time that the E.P.A. has that authority and was required to exercise it if the gases were shown to be harmful. Last week, the three-judge panel unanimously found that greenhouse gases endanger public help and most likely contribute to global warming. Challengers of the E.P.A.’s new regulations argued that scientific fact does not support the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming with enough certainty to allow for federal regulation, but the court disagreed and stated that the agency “marshaled substantial scientific evidence” to support its assertions. The final rule will employ a phased approach which focuses first on the largest greenhouse gas emitters.
The E.P.A is currently working on its first set of national limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants which will make new coal plants more expensive to construct and operate. In response, utilities have abandoned plans to build coal-fired plants in favor of natural gas facilities, which release about half the amount of carbon dioxide. Duke Energy and Southern Corp. are each constructing a “clean coal” plant, but the high cost of such facilities makes them uncommon. The E.P.A and environmental groups have praised the decision, but critics contend that increased regulations will serve to stifle job creation and increase energy costs. Opponents of the decision, including the Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, intend to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
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