Supreme Court declines to hear AG’s challenge to EPA’s endangerment finding

constitutionThe U.S. Supreme Court today refused requests to review a lower court decision upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. The Southern Environmental Law Center represented Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch in defending EPA’s conclusion, which was based on the damaging effects of climate change already in evidence as well as projected effects for coastal Virginia and globally.

EPA issued the Endangerment Finding in 2009 after determining that six greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. The finding was a prerequisite to EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and it was quickly challenged by Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, as well as a small collection of states and certain industry groups, in an effort to thwart EPA’s efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The finding was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in June 2012, but some of the parties involved in that case asked the Supreme Court to review the decision.

“The Supreme Court’s order has put a welcome and decisive end to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s challenge to EPA’s Endangerment Finding,” said SELC senior attorney Morgan Butler.  “EPA’s responsibility to address climate change is clear, and it’s time to move forward on actions that will benefit Virginia’s vulnerable coastal communities while  promoting energy independence, creating new jobs, and saving us money at the gas pump.”

Skip Stiles, executive director with Wetlands Watch, hailed the result. “We are relieved that the misguided legal debate over the effects of greenhouse gases has finally been put to bed. The tidewater area faces the damaging effects of climate change every day, as floodwaters are backing up higher in neighborhoods, and storm surges are pummeling our coasts. As a state and as a country, it’s time to take action to protect our communities, not deny the danger to them – nor the causes of that endangerment.”

The Court today did grant review of one question: “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.” However, the challenges to EPA’s Endangerment finding and recent clean car standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles have now been put to rest.

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