States To Challenge Epa's Refusal To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

September 3, 2003

Attorneys General from three New England states announced today that they will challenge a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling that declares that the agency has no legal authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which causes global warming.

The EPA ruling, issued last week, contradicts earlier statements and testimony from the agency, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe.

In June, Attorneys General Reilly, Blumenthal and Rowe filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA for failing to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Today, the three states dropped the pending lawsuit "without prejudice" in favor of challenging EPA's new ruling. Arguing that last week's EPA announcement was contrived, the three Attorneys General state in today's court filing that "EPA's newly-minted position ... was formulated in the context of the ongoing litigation and its issuance was plainly driven by the agency's need to respond to the [three states'] complaint."

"EPA has long acknowledged the huge threats posed by global warming while refusing to do anything substantive about the problem," AG Reilly said. "Now, for the first time, EPA is claiming it actually has no authority to deal with the problem. While we are switching legal forums, we are re-doubling our efforts to challenge EPA's abdication of responsibility."

"The EPA seems determined to deny irrefutable, increasing scientific proof that greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are endangering public health – denying powerful scientific evidence from its own studies. The playbook seems to be from the tobacco industry – deny and delay – even when human lives are at stake and the science is clear," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "Thankfully, New England's governors have recognized carbon dioxide's danger, and are acting to reduce greenhouse gases even as the federal government abdicates its responsibility."

"The EPA's recent flip-flop regarding its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions ignores the Clean Air Act and all the problems that global warming will cause," Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said. "We just want the EPA to do its job. It shouldn't be too much to ask."

The EPA ruling, released on Thursday, August 28, was issued in response to an administrative petition filed in 1999 requesting that the EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and other mobile sources to help address global warming. The original petition was filed in 1999 by the Center for Technology Assessment, Greenpeace and other environmental groups. On the same day, the EPA also filed a motion to dismiss in the states' global warming lawsuit, arguing that the legal challenge should be made before the federal appeals court, not the district court.

Identifying climate change as the "most pressing environmental challenge of the 21st century," Attorneys General Reilly, Blumenthal and Rowe and other state Attorneys General first raised their concerns about global warming in a July 2002 letter to the Bush Administration. Pointing to a May 2002 report confirming the dangers of global warming, the state Attorneys General urged President Bush to act immediately and take a "strong national approach" to the problem. The report, U.S. Climate Action Report 2002, confirms the dangers of global climate change and projects that its primary cause, emissions of greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide produced from the combustion of fossil fuels - will increase by 43 percent by 2020.

In response to the lack of initiative at the federal level, several states are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the state level. Massachusetts adopted regulations in 2001 requiring carbon dioxide reductions by power plants and New Hampshire recently enacted "cap and trade" legislation. In May, the Maine legislature enacted a bill that directs the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a long-term climate action plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010, and at least ten percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The legislature in California last summer passed a bill that will lead to the "maximum feasible" reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

The three states will challenge EPA's new ruling before the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and, as outlined in today's motion to dismiss, intend to re-file the suit once they receive a favorable ruling from the Court of Appeals on the administrative petition.