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Feb 162010

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and the state’s Attorney General and Agriculture commissioner, announced Tuesday that the state will challenge the EPA’s 2009 finding that greenhouse gases are endangering human health.

Texas has filed a Petition for Review of the EPA’s finding with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit , questioning the science behind the EPA’s finding and whether the agency should be allowed to regulate industries’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The move follows a similar one by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week, when the Chamber filed a petition against the EPA to stop the agency from regulating greenhouse gases. The Chamber says it favors greenhouse gas reductions, but that giving the EPA the authority to assess fines against polluters is the “wrong way” to do it.

The EPA responded to the Texas filing with this statement from Dr. Alfredo “Al” Armendariz, EPA Regional Administrator for Region 6:

“Todays action is not surprising. Texas officials have repeatedly expressed opposition to the EPA’s common sense approach to begin reducing harmful greenhouse gases. Texas, which contributes up to 35 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by industrial sources in the United States, should be leading the way in this effort. Instead, Texas officials are attempting to slow progress with unnecessary litigation.

“EPA is confident the endangerment finding, which was issued as a result of a 2007 Supreme Court decision, will withstand legal challenge.”               

Both the Texas petition and the one filed by the U.S. Chamber express concern that regulating greenhouse gases — or in the case of the Chamber’s suit, assessing fines to violators –  will be costly for businesses.

Perry’s suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals, specifically cites industries that depend on fossil fuels and the livestock industry.

“This legal action is being taken to protect the Texas economy and the jobs that go with it, as well as defend Texas’ freedom to continue our successful environmental strategies free from federal overreach,” Perry said in a news release.

The EPA officially deemed greenhouse gases to be a threat to human health in 2009 after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Bush Administration’s reasons for not regulating these pollutants to be insufficient. The EPA is charged with regulating air pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Environmental Defense Fund Texas Regional Director Jim Marston said Gov. Perry’s action against the EPA represents a step backwards for Texas.

“The lawsuit filed by Governor Perry is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. vs. Massachusetts. Their action invokes memories of a sad time in Texas history from the ’50s, when Texas politicians sought to nullify decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only is it legally unsound, it puts Texas on the side of the 1950s economy, against the clean energy economy of the future.”

Perry and his co-filers, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, criticize the EPA’s “endangerment finding” on greenhouse gases, saying that the EPA wrongly relied heavily on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has recently come under fire for having miscalculated or exaggerated some of the effects of global warming. For instance, a finding that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone in a few decades turned out to be based on one scientist’s estimation, and not any peer-reviewed study.

Leaders with the global alliance of scientists, however, have defended the panel’s basic conclusion that the world is warming, pointing to Arctic ice melts and rising seas.

But Texas Attorney General Abbott says that controversies around the IPCC call into question the EPA’s greenhouse gas position.

“With billions of dollars at stake, EPA outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation to a scandal-plagued international organization that cannot be considered objective or trustworthy,” Attorney General Abbott said.

According to the Texas news release,  “the International[sic] Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)… has been discredited by evidence of key scientists’ lack of objectivity, coordinated efforts to hide flaws in their research, attempts to keep contravening evidence out of IPCC reports and violation of freedom of information laws.”

The EDF defends the EPA, however, saying the agency drew on science from many sources, such as NOAA and the USDA, not just the IPCC.

“Some of the challengers have claimed that the scientific underpinning for EPA’s action is weak. In fact, EPA’s decision is based on a two hundred page synthesis of major scientific assessments by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Research Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, CNA Corporation, and others.”
(The EPA “Technical Support Document for the Findings” is available at the EPA website on climate change.)

The EDF statement also notes that the U.S. Chamber has fought the Clean Air Act before, in 1997, when the EPA moved to regulate particulate and ozone pollution.

Then, the Chamber claiming that it would harm manufacturers, farm interests, cement makers, auto manufacturers, the pulp and paper mill industry, petroleum refiners, iron and steel firms, home builders, mining interests, and power companies, the EDF said.

“Today, millions of Americans have been protected with healthier air and the science is only more compelling in documenting the harm from particulate and ozone pollution.”

In its current petition against the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases, the Chamber says it would favor a Congressional bill on climate change over direct government regulation.

“The right way” to regulate carbon pollution, according to the Chamber’s news release “is through bipartisan legislation that promotes new technologies, emphasizes efficiency, ensures affordable energy for families and businesses, and defends American jobs while returning our economy to prosperity. ”

The House of Representatives passed a bill to address climate change last summer, but the Senate has remained stalled on the issue for months.