The U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can move forward with its controversial plan to regulate emissions from more than 6 million stationary sources, including the nation's power-generating plants and more than 200,000 manufacturing facilities.
The 82-page ruling, issued June 26 by a three-judge panel, unanimously upheld EPA's contention that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, and said EPA's interpretation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct.”
The ruling could cause power plants in the U.S. to switch to natural gas and potentially trigger price increases in natural gas, which serves as a feedstock and fuel for both the chemical and plastic industries.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. considers the availability of natural gas a critical issue.
“The United States plastics industry heavily relies on natural gas as both a primary source of energy and as the basic feedstock for a number of its products,” says SPI in the public policy/key issue section of its website.
“Today's ruling is a setback for businesses facing damaging regulations from the EPA,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. “The Clean Air Act was not designed to regulate greenhouse gases.”
The EPA rules impose new emission standards on cars starting this summer, and also create rules on permits for stationary sources that are scheduled to begin to go into effect next year.
The first of those rules, now being finalized, will apply to coal-fired power plants.
NAM said it was reviewing the court's decision and will consider further legal options, including an appeal to the entire court or to the Supreme Court.
In upholding EPA's rules, the court rejected four separate industry challenges.
“The existence of some uncertainty does not ... warrant invalidation of an endangerment finding,” the court wrote.
“In the end, petitioners are asking us to re-weigh the scientific evidence before EPA and reach our own conclusion. This is not our role.”
The court also said it did not have the authority or jurisdiction to review the scope or timing of the effective dates for the rules.
“The EPA's decision to move forward with these regulations is one of the most costly, complex and burdensome regulations facing manufacturers,” said Timmons. “These regulations will harm their ability to hire, invest and grow.”
EPA issued its finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health in December 2009 — about 21/2 years after the Supreme Court ruled the agency had the authority to regulate such emissions under the Clean Air Act.