Courts Sides With EPA Over Pollution Limits, Fuel Efficiency Standards
June 28, 2012

Courts Sides With EPA Over Pollution Limits, Fuel Efficiency Standards

Brett Smith for

A federal appeals court this week upheld the Environmental Protection Agency´s (EPA) ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to set the 2012-16 fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

In a rebuke to the states and major industry players who challenged the new regulations, the court noted that greenhouse gases may "reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare."

The group that brought the lawsuit, which included coal, oil and steel interests, said they opposed efforts by the government to impose new regulations to control emissions because it would impede the fragile economic recovery.  They also challenged the EPA´s timetable for enforcing the regulations, but the court dismissed these concerns.

Environmental groups and officials hailed the decision as a victory for their cause and said it opened the door for the EPA to finalize clean car standards that would cut new car pollution in half and double fuel efficiency by 2025.

"The court upheld the agency's careful determination, based on a mountain of scientific evidence, that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants threaten our health and our planet," said David Doniger, senior attorney for the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to the AFP news agency.

"These rulings clear the way for EPA to keep moving forward under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from motor vehicles, new power plants, and other big industrial sources.”

While many business and industry groups were opposed to the new regulations because of their potential to increase costs, the automobile industry, which has already made substantial investments in these areas, has mostly backed the push to lower emissions and raise fuel standards.

“The automotive sector´s ability to contribute to the health of the U.S. economy depends on reasonable regulations that provide clarity and certainty, without pricing our customers out of the market or preventing them from choosing vehicles that can meet their diverse needs,” states the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

“Automakers support development of a National Program for fuel economy and carbon dioxide that increases fuel economy, without negative effects on affordability, jobs, auto safety and the range of vehicle sizes that keep America working. “

Like anything involving the politically-divisive EPA, congressmen either supported or derided the court´s decision based on party affiliation.

"Today's decision is a resounding victory for science," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif told David Shepardson of the Detroit News Washington Bureau. "Today's ruling is a message to Congress that it's time to stop denying science. Extreme events like the wildfires in Colorado and the floods in Florida are going to get worse unless the Republican-controlled Congress changes course soon."

Republican congressman Fred Upton, who represents Michigan´s 6th district, disagreed saying that the ruling “delivers a devastating blow to the U.S. economy and American consumers. After enduring 40 consecutive months of higher than 8 percent unemployment, we cannot afford the EPA's continued expansion of red tape that is slowing economic growth and threatening to entangle millions of small businesses. EPA's rules will impose billions of dollars in compliance and delay costs and represent an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority."