Federal Appeals Court Backs Up EPA Emissions/Fuel Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was backed up by a federal appeals court this past week and will retain its power to set fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles from 2012-2016 and set limits for greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA guidelines were challenged by industry leaders; however the court stated that greenhouse gases can “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Among the critics of the new standards were coal, steel and oil companies, who brought the lawsuit because they felt the EPA rules will be a roadblock for economic recovery, and because they felt the timetable to enforce the guidelines is unrealistic. The court dismissed the timetable concerns.

Proponents like environmental groups consider this a victory; the EPA measures are just the beginning steps to a final result of cutting new vehicle pollution by 50 percent while doubling fuel efficiency by 2025. David Doniger is the senior attorney for the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  He stated, “The court upheld the agency’s careful determination, based on a mountain of scientific evidence, that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants threaten our health and our planet. These rulings clear the way for EPA to keep moving forward under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from motor vehicles, new power plants, and other big industrial sources.”

Surprisingly, the auto industry has been supportive in the efforts to impose new standards even though many other industry groups have been fighting the EPA because the new standards will increase costs.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers had this to say: “The automotive sector’s ability to contribute to the health of the U.S. economy depends on reasonable regulations that provide clarity and certainty, without pricing our customers out of the market or preventing them from choosing vehicles that can meet their diverse needs.  Automakers support development of a National Program for fuel economy and carbon dioxide that increases fuel economy, without negative effects on affordability, jobs, auto safety and the range of vehicle sizes that keep America working.”

Predictably, congressional response to the federal appeals court ruling has been either criticized or supported based on party affiliation. Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman called it “a resounding victory for science” while Republican congressman Fred Upton deems it “a devastating blow to the U.S. economy and American consumers.”

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