Court refuses to block EPA effort to regulate GHGs

A federal appeals court rejected a request by the oil and gas industry and others to delay the US Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions on Jan. 2.

This story was updated Dec. 14 with additional comments.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 13 -- A federal appeals court rejected a request by the oil and gas industry and others to delay the US Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions on Jan. 2. The request did not meet “stringent standards required for a stay pending court review,” the appellate court for the District of Columbia circuit ruled on Dec. 10.

“We’re disappointed that the court has chosen to deny our motion for a partial stay of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations,” said Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, one of the business groups seeking the delay. “Today’s action means that EPA’s invasive and misguided regulations will be imposed on our nation’s businesses and manufacturers at the beginning of 2011,” he said.

Quentin Riegel, vice-president of litigation and general counsel at the National Association of Manufacturers, added, “We continue to believe that our arguments presented a compelling case for an issuance of stay. EPA’s agenda places unnecessary burdens on manufacturers, drives up energy costs, and imposes even more uncertainty on the nation’s job creators. We will continue our efforts to stop the EPA from pursuing its job-destroying agenda.”

Environmental organizations were elated. “This is a victory for every American who wants better gas mileage and cleaner cars and factories. It means cleaner air, a stronger economy, and a healthier future for us all,” said David Doniger, policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center.

Responding to an OGJ inquiry, EPA said in a Dec. 13 statement that the court’s ruling confirmed what the agency “has been saying all along: that [EPA’s] reasonable actions to address carbon pollution will unfold in a manageable and sensible way.” EPA added, “Yet again, the doomsday predictions of special interest lobbyists have been proven wrong.”

The groups filed their motion in August to prevent EPA’s implementation of its June 3 Prevention of Significant Determination and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule, which would begin federal GHG emissions regulation by targeting refineries, chemical plants, and other large industries.

"It is always a bit of a long shot to get a stay granted in any case. That said, in this case, the result is unfortunate,” observed Scott Segal of Bracewell Giuliani, a lobbying firm that has several such groups and companies as clients.

Segal added, “In light of the substantial disagreement over whether federal, state, and local regulators can be ready in time to impose preconstruction permit requirements by early January, the court may have ensured an effective construction moratorium for industrial and power projects. Given the state of the economy, the decision is certainly not a welcome holiday present.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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