The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA was within its authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act if it found them to be a public danger. It did in December 2009. This set the stage for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, factories and other sources of emissions.
In more than 60 lawsuits, industry groups, states and other parties challenged the right of the EPA to impose rules designed to limit emissions. The lawsuits were consolidated and oral arguments were heard in February.
The panel's ruling is a key victory for environmental advocates and for the Obama administration and a slap-down of one of the most ridiculous claims of climate-change deniers—that EPA was mistaken in asserting that greenhouse gas emissions are harmful to human health.
Despite the claims of industry shills and a handful of contrarians, the scientific consensus holds that the planet is undergoing global warming as a direct consequence of the burning of fossil fuels. The period from June 2011-May 2012 was the warmest 12 months on record for the continental United States. A report last month by staff members of the Natural Resources Defense Council pointed to just one of the harms that might accompany global warming:
The cumulative impact of climate change on [excessive heat events] deaths is substantial. Combined, the 40 cities studied are expected to experience 32,934 more deaths [per year] by mid-century than they would in the absence of climate change, and 150,322 more deaths by century’s end than they would in the absence of climate change.Such matters are not of great concern to those who see the EPA as over-reaching:
"Today's ruling is a setback for businesses facing damaging regulations from the EPA," said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. "We will be considering all of our legal options when it comes to halting these devastating regulations. The debate to address climate change should take place in the U.S. Congress and should foster economic growth and job creation, not impose additional burdens on businesses."The response in the environmental community was, of course, highly favorable. For instance:
“This is a huge victory for our children’s future,” David Doniger, senior attorney for the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “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.”The ruling may well sharpen the debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the upcoming election. As on so many other issues, Romney has publicly expressed opposite points of view regarding global warming. His most recent stand has placed him, if not quite squarely, on the side of those who consider human-caused global warming to be bogus or, at best, overhyped. That puts him with the climate-change-denying majority of Republicans elected to Congress in 2010.