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Breaking: Obama Administration Makes Defense of CO2 Regulations Top Court Priority

Jesse Jenkins's picture

Jesse is a researcher, consultant, and writer with ten years of experience in the energy sector and expertise in electric power systems, electricity regulation, energy and climate change policy...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jan 15, 2011

Defending regulation of greenhouse gases from court challenges will be a top priority for the Obama Administration’s legal team this year, a senior U.S. Justice Department official said on Thursday.

As the Environmental Protection Agency works to develop new rules to regulate climate destabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, oil refineries, and other major sources of climate pollution, legal challenges are expected from both industry and state governments, such as Texas, fearing the impact of new regulations on business.

“EPA’s regulatory actions are of critical importance to the nation, and defending against these challenges will remain one of our highest priorities in 2011,” Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division, said in a speech.

Under the direction of Republican Governor Rick Perry, the state of Texas has petitioned the courts to stay implementation of the new regulations, arguing that the state, home to numerous refineries and power plants that would be subject to new GHG regulations, would face significant economic costs.

So far, the state has failed to secure a stay from federal courts, and the EPA is proceeding to draft new regulations on power plants and oil refineries, which together account for roughly 40 percent of U.S. GHG emissions.

“We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans, and contributes to climate change,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a December 23rd press release announcing a timeline for the promulgation new emissions rules.

The EPA plans to propose rules for power plants [pdf] by July 26, 2011, with rules finalized by May 26, 2012, while refinery rules [pdf] will be released December 20, 2011 and finalized by November 10, 2012.

As the Administration gears up to defend the regulations in the courts, political battles await in Washington as well. 

Both the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee plan to use their new gavels to fight EPA climate regulations.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are working to win over coal-state Democrats, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, as they build support for a resolution that would bar EPA from moving ahead on climate regulations. A version sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska would strip EPA of such authority permanently, while Senator Rockefeller has advocated a temporary, two-year stay of any new EPA GHG limits.

As EPA moves forward on the agency’s court-obligated efforts to reduce the public dangers of CO2 emissions, this two-pronged legal and political fight appears unavoidable. 

“Unlike the fight over cap-and-trade legislation in Congress last year, the fight over EPA authority is not one Obama can simply avoid. Nor is there an obvious compromise,” says David Roberts, staff writer at Grist, where he covers energy and climate politics for the online environmental magazine. “The choice here is win or capitulate, so it’s nice to see the administration gearing up for battle.”

It’s a battle that is only likely to intensify from here on out. Stay tuned…

By Jesse Jenkins, reporting for

See also: Obama Facing Tough Balancing Act as EPA Advances Greenhouse Gas Regulations,” 12/23


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