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Federal Appeals Court Rules for EPA Against CO2 Regulation

States in the EPA Case

A Federal Court of Appeals has ruled in a 2–1 decision that the EPA was justified in 2003 when it refused to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Twelve states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington—plus New York City, American Samoa and the District of Columbia, had petitioned that the EPA was legally bound to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act because global warming was a demonstrable threat to public health and safety.

However, the majority ruling of the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that agency officials acted within their authority two years ago when they rejected those petitions demanding the regulation of greenhouse gases from new cars and trucks.

Eleven states—Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Utah—(and Congressman John Dingell, D-MI) entered the case in support of the administration’s position.

Although the majority of the panel ruled in favor of the EPA, each of the judges in fact wrote a separate opinion: one in full support of the EPA; one dissenting in part but concurring with the final judgement, and one in full dissent to the decision.

The third—dissenting—opinion (from Judge Tatel) is the longest (pages 21–58 of a 58-page ruling), and worth a read for the legal- and/or policy-minded. In it he systematically dissects and counters the arguments often adduced against the regulation of CO2.

The decision, although disappointing for the petitioning states, nevertheless does not prevent states from adopting their own measures to combat global warming.

California continues to argue its case in federal court for the support of its law requiring automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks about 30% by 2016.


  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Opinion on Commonwealth of Mass, et. al. v. EPA




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