States Sue EPA for Refusing to Regulate CO2

Published November 21, 2003

Officials from 10 states, primarily in the Northeast and on the West Coast, have taken steps to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that CO2 is not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

EPA on August 28 rejected a petition by various environmental activist groups to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant. According to Jeffrey Holmstead, who oversees EPA’s air programs, the Clean Air Act “does give us authority to do research on climate change, not to issue regulation … Where there is a major public policy issue, Congress needs to decide.”

“EPA cannot assert jurisdiction to regulate in this area,” explained EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant. “It is clear that an administration agency properly awaits congressional direction on a fundamental policy issue such as global climate change, instead of searching for an existing statute that was not designed or enacted to deal with that issue.”

The activist groups had based their petition on October 1999 congressional testimony by then-EPA administrator Carol Browner, indicating her belief EPA had authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2.

However, the Clinton administration did not take steps to regulate CO2 until shortly before it left office, thereby leaving a final determination on whether to regulate CO2 to the Bush administration.

Since announcing in March 2001 it would not join the Kyoto Protocol, the Bush administration has consistently cited scientific evidence suggesting no link between human activity and alarmist predictions of global climate change. EPA’s August 28 decision not to regulate CO2 thus did not come as a surprise to political observers.

In response to EPA’s decision, attorneys general from Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts announced they would file suit to force the agency to implement regulations. Officials from California and several other states, primarily Democratic administrations in the Northeast and on the West Coast, thereafter indicated they would join the suit. Newly elected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated he would not change former Governor Gray Davis’ decision to join the suit.

The legal action coincided with an announcement by the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, who will undertake a joint program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. The states will cooperate in purchasing low-emission state vehicles, encouraging the use of renewable energy, and establishing emissions-free power stations at truck stops along Interstate 5, which parallels the Pacific coast.

State Politics Ignores New Science

The states’ action to challenge EPA on global warming and institute state-specific greenhouse gas programs was called into question by a new round of scientific evidence casting doubt on alarmist global warming theories.

A temperature study of towns and cities in South Korea, published in International Journal of Climatology, concluded that city population centers create heat islands that artificially inflate temperature readings at ground-based weather stations.

That helps explain why satellite readings of the lower atmosphere, where signs of global warming are first expected to appear, show no warming since readings began in 1979—even though ground-based weather stations in urban areas produce slightly elevated temperature readings.

“Temperatures of large urban stations exhibit higher urban bias than those of smaller urban stations and that magnitude of urban bias has increased since the late 1980s,” stated the authors of the study. “Estimates of the annual mean magnitude of urban bias range from 0.35 degrees C for smaller urban stations to 0.50 degrees C for large urban stations.”

Additionally, a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters concluded that abrupt climate changes “appear to be paced by a 1,470 year cycle.” The study indicates the Little Ice Age of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries was a product of the climatic cycle, and that the Earth’s rebound from that cyclical period of low temperatures is a natural event not connected to human activity.

Furthermore, a study in the Russian journal Geomagnetizm i Aeronomiya (Geomagnetism and Aeronomy) presented a wide array of evidence that although “a number of publications report that the anthropogenic impact on the Earth’s climate is an obvious fact … none of the investigations dealing with the anthropogenic impact on climate convincingly argues for such an impact.”

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].