Business Groups Plot Legal Challenge to EPA Regs

| Wed Jan. 20, 2010 4:21 PM EST

The Senate could vote on Thursday on an amendment from Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. But should Murkowski's effort fail, industry groups have a Plan B: they're hoping to tie up emissions rules in a tangle of costly lawsuits.

I reported last week that the Chamber of Commerce will probably challenge the agency's finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. (That finding triggered the agency's responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate such pollutants). And last Friday, executives and lobbyists from more than two dozen trade groups huddled in the law offices of Sidley Austin LLP to discuss their legal strategy, according to The Hill.

The groups that attended the meeting represent many of the nation's biggest polluters. They included the Chamber, the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Public Power Association, and the Edison Electric Institute.

The meeting was convened by the firm's general counsel Roger R. Martella Jr., the same former Bush EPA staffer-turned-lobbyist who helped draft Murkowski's attempt last fall to block EPA rules on carbon emissions. He now lobbies on climate on behalf of clients like the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the Alliance of Food Associations.

It's not surprising that industry groups are assembling a war room to fight EPA curbs on carbon dioxide. But what is interesting is that the group was apparently divided on the best course of action. The Hill observes that "two camps have emerged." One wants to challenge whatever rules the EPA issues, while another wants to question the science of global warming itself.  One thing's for sure: With cap-and-trade legislation looking less likely by the minute, the fight over the EPA is about to heat up fast.