Climate 411

Attacks on EPA Led by Group that is Linked to Owner of Largest Private U.S. Coal Reserves

EDF General Counsel Vickie Patton reveals how the state of Texas and Big Coal are prime movers behind a legal campaign attacking EPA’s greenhouse gas pollution cuts for smokestacks and tailpipes.

On December 10, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a request that it stay the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing some common sense rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and its allies worked for months to help defeat that request.  Our allies included the Attorneys General of 19 states, numerous business organizations, and other environmental groups like Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Earthjustice.

The attempt to shackle EPA was supported by the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the state of Texas, and powerful groups like the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. They are the prime movers behind a legal campaign to invalidate every national greenhouse gas pollution control measure that has been adopted to date.

Last year, in December 2009, an attorney representing the Coalition for Responsible Regulation sent an email to Texas government officials. EDF obtained that email [PDF] through the Texas Open Records Act. The email encouraged a legal challenge to EPA authority under the Clean Air Act, and requested that Texas and the Coalition:

“begin the coordination process”

But who, or what, is the Coalition for Responsible Regulation?  It appears to be closely linked to the largest private owner of coal reserves in the country.

The Coalition’s purpose, according to its articles of formation, is:

“To pursue such administrative and judicial avenues as appropriate to ensure that the Clean Air Act is properly applied to greenhouse gases.”

But “properly applied,” in this instance, means NOT applying our clean air laws to greenhouse gas pollution.

State records show that all three members of the Coalition’s board of directors share the same Houston address as the Quintana Minerals Corporation – though none of the Coalition’s incorporating papers mention the company. Bloomberg Businessweek says that one of those members, Charles H. Kerr, has been an executive with the Quintana Minerals Corporation since 1983.

Quintana Minerals is owned by Corbin Robertson Jr. and his family. It is the nation’s largest private holder of coal reserves.

Robertson is a contributor to  Texas politicians like Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Gregory Abbott and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (who memorably apologized to BP for the White House’s investigation of the Gulf oil spill) — politicians who are committed to hobbling an EPA that uses rigorous science to regulate harmful pollution.

According to the Washington Post, Robertson has also joined forces with H. Leighton Steward (a well-known climate change denier) to campaign against climate science through two peculiarly named pressure groups — “CO2 is Green” and “Plants Need CO2.”

The Appeals Court ruling on December 10 temporarily freed EPA to fulfill its mandate, under the Clean Air Act, to protect human health and the environment by cutting harmful forms of pollution. EPA will start by limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and factories on January 2.

Also, EPA’s clean car standards will require lower emissions from new automobiles, which will get better mileage as a result. The new standards will cut America’s oil consumption and help the auto industry grow. American automakers, in their own filing to the court, said the attempt to stop EPA from implementing their new standards:

“would result in tremendous hardship” to the entire industry.

But sensible EPA actions like these are under continuing legal (and, with the new Congress, legislative) threat from the Coalition and its allies.

In fact, Texas has already jumped to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, to again ask for an immediate stay on implementation of EPA’s greenhouse gas rules. EDF and its allies are moving quickly to oppose this request.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Read 2 Responses

White House Fax Flippant on Grim Impacts of Global Warming

Vickie Patton's profileTomorrow, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold an important hearing on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the power of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address global warming under existing law. Unfortunately, EPA’s progress has been stymied by stiff winds blowing from the White House.

Environmental Defense Fund has uncovered a document that provides a disturbing look at the White House’s views on global warming science, views that were revealed as part of White House efforts to interfere with progress at EPA. On June 20, the White House Office of Management and Budget transmitted a fax to EPA with numerous comments on a critically important EPA technical document examining how global warming endangers human health and the environment.

The summary below highlights a few remarkable examples from the White House fax [PDF].

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Posted in Cars and Pollution / Comments are closed

Court Denies Petition to Compel EPA Compliance with Supreme Court

Vickie PattonThis post is by Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel at Environmental Defense Fund, and former attorney in EPA’s General Counsel’s office.

Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit denied the petition for writ of mandamus filed by a coalition of states and environmental organizations to enforce the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on global warming in Massachusetts v. EPA. The coalition asked the court to instruct EPA to carry out its duty, under the Supreme Court’s decision, to determine within 60 days whether global warming pollution endangers human health and welfare.

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Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

Legal Action to Compel EPA Compliance with Supreme Court

Vickie PattonThis post is by Vickie Patton, Deputy General Counsel at Environmental Defense Fund, and a former attorney in EPA’s General Counsel’s office.

One year ago, the Supreme Court rejected the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claim that it lacked legal authority to regulate global warming pollution (for example, from vehicle tailpipes). EPA administrator Stephen Johnson promised a firm and prompt response to the high Court’s decision, but a year passed with no action.

Then on March 27, Johnson recanted his commitment.

So today, a broad coalition of 18 states, 3 cities, and 11 non-profit organizations (see full list*) took legal action to compel EPA to comply. The parties are led by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and include Environmental Defense Fund.

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Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 13 Responses

Lawsuits Against EPA for Decision on Auto Emissions

Vickie PattonThis post is by Vickie Patton, Deputy General Counsel at Environmental Defense, and a former attorney in the EPA’s General Counsel’s office.

Two lawsuits were filed today against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which sits in San Francisco. The first lawsuit was filed by California, and the second by several environmental organizations – Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Conservation Law Foundation, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

The lawsuits challenge EPA’s denial of California’s request for a preemption waiver under the Clean Air Act to implement the state’s landmark standards for greenhouse gas emissions – requests that have been granted by EPA over 50 times in the past 40 years [PDF].

The EPA’s decision relies on a flawed argument that the federal courts already have rejected and are likely to reject again.

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Posted in Cars and Pollution / Comments are closed

EPA Delivers Lump of Coal to America for Holidays

Vickie PattonThis post is by Vickie Patton, Deputy General Counsel at Environmental Defense, and a former attorney in the EPA’s General Counsel’s office.

Two years ago, California asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pave the way for landmark standards to limit global warming from motor vehicles. Seventeen other states plan to implement the Clean Car standards, pending the EPA decision. But today – after two years of stalling – EPA said no. This decision is virtually unprecedented; EPA has granted similar requests over 50 times in 40 years.

The Bush administration is putting the brakes on state action to address the global warming crisis. Doing nothing about global warming is bad enough – but going out of your way to block the state leaders who are taking action is just plain shocking.

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Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 6 Responses