Chamber Kicks Off Legal Battle Over Carbon Regs

| Wed Feb. 17, 2010 3:01 PM EST

The first shots in the legal battle over the greenhouse gas regulation have officially been fired. After dropping hints of a possible lawsuit last month, US Chamber of Commerce has formally filed a court challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling that greenhouse gases endanger public health. 

Rather than attacking the underlying science behind the EPA's decision, the Chamber says it's focusing on whether it's appropriate for the EPA to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act. "The U.S. Chamber strongly supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, but we believe there's a right way and a wrong way to achieve that goal," said Steven J. Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the Chamber. "The wrong way is through the EPA’s endangerment finding, which triggers Clean Air Act regulation."

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, as well as President Barack Obama and other advisers, have repeatedly said that the Clean Air Act is not ideal for dealing with climate change, and that they would prefer new legislation from Congress. But the EPA issued the endangerment finding in response to a specific directive from the Supreme Court in 2007 requiring the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases threaten human health. Once the agency reached the scientific conclusion that such pollutants are a health threat, it was automatically obliged to regulate those gases.

Although Chamber claims its not contesting the science of climate change, its submission does just that. The Chamber claims in its statement that the EPA failed to complete "careful analysis of all available data and options" before releasing the "flawed" endangerment finding. And in past statements on this subject, the Chamber has not been shy about engaging in a scientific debate on climate change. Last year the Chamber's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs called for "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st Century" on climate change (he later backed off). And in its comments on the initial endangerment finding, the Chamber argued that climate change might actually be beneficial for humans, and that the problem of global warming could be solved if more people used air conditioners.

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