Alaska has joined a large number of states — 16 as of last Wednesday — in a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) controversial endangerment finding that triggers the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). But a like-minded number of states earlier this year sought to intervene on behalf of the EPA.
“Alaska is challenging a decision that, by EPA’s own admission, will vastly expand the EPA’s regulation of all sectors of the state’s economy,” said Gov. Sean Parnell. “We remain concerned the EPA is extending its authority too aggressively and in a manner that harms the state’s interests. We will continue to fight this type of federal overreach,” he said.
The 16 states have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the EPA’s December endangerment decision that GHG emissions pose risks to health and welfare. The court has consolidated the 16 petitions challenging the agency’s endangerment finding into one lawsuit, Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc., et al., vs. EPA, the New York Times reported. Sixteen other states and New York City asked to intervene on behalf of the EPA in January, according to the newspaper.
EPA’s endangerment finding sets the stage for the agency to stringently regulate GHG emissions even if Congress fails to enact climate change legislation (see NGI, Dec. 14, 2009). At issue in the lawsuit is the process that the EPA used to find that greenhouse gases contribute to global climate change, thus endangering human health and welfare, and the “substantial regulatory implications” of that finding, the state said.
“Since 2003 Alaska has been a party to the litigation over the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act,” said Attorney General Dan Sullivan. “Our filing continues Alaska’s involvement in this important case. With its endangerment finding EPA has clearly signaled that its next step is to regulate emissions from ‘stationary sources’ — a regulatory burden that would severely hamper economic growth and resource development throughout the state,” he said.
The state is not challenging the science on climate change underlying EPA’s decision, Sullivan said. Rather, it is challenging the agency’s position that Congress intended the agency and states to regulate GHG emissions through the permitting requirements of the CAA, as well as the process by which the EPA came to this decision.
“The Clean Air Act was not designed with regulating greenhouse gases in mind and is not well-suited for that purpose,” said Alaska’s Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Larry Hartig, who chairs the governor’s executive sub-cabinet on climate change.
Opposition to the EPA’s endangerment finding is growing beyond Washington’s Beltway. Twenty governors and nearly 100 trade organizations, including several energy groups, have written letters to Senate and House leaders expressing their concerns about the EPA attempt to use its CAA authority to regulate GHG emissions that are contributing to global warming (see NGI, March 15).
A number are supporting the “disapproval resolution” offered by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in late January, which seeks to overturn the EPA’s endangerment finding (see NGI, Jan. 25). A similar disapproval resolution has been introduced in the House.
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