The United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. heard arguments last week in a group of lawsuits over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) clean air measures to protect American's health and well-being from the clear and present danger of climate pollution.
The Challengers to Clean Air
The state of Texas, along with several large industrial polluters, has challenged EPA's action – even though other states and business allies support EPA's protections. For example, the U.S. auto makers and a dozen states (California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) have intervened in defense of EPA's cleaner car standards. EDF has also intervened in defense of EPA's vital protections.
The lead challenger is a group called the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, a group that actively sought to enlist the State of Texas in mounting legal attacks against the EPA's clean air protections. Interestingly, state records show that the Coalition’s board of directors share the same Houston address as the Quintana Minerals Corporation.
Quintana Minerals is the nation’s largest private holder of coal reserves. Its owner, Corbin Robertson Jr., is a contributor to Texas politicians like Governor 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.
The EPA Protections Being Challenged
One of the EPA protections facing legal challenge is the Endangerment Finding. To provide a little background, on Dec. 15, 2009, EPA determined that six greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. EPA based this finding on more than 100 published scientific studies and peer-reviewed syntheses of climate change research by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program/U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
That Endangerment Finding followed the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. In that decision, the court held that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The Court then instructed EPA to determine — on the basis of science — whether these gases endanger human health and welfare.
Texas is the second most populous state in the nation, with 25 million residents. Why would a state that has more people in it than that of many states combined fight against clean air protections when other states are intervening on behalf of EPA?
Let’s take this idea further. When you have a lot of people in a state, this means a lot of cars on the road. Indeed, there are over 21 million cars on roads in Texas. At a time when people are increasingly concerned about rising gas prices, the clean car standards will save Texans thousands of dollars at the gas pump by enabling families to drive farther on a gallon of gas, will help break our nation's addiction to foreign oil, and cut dangerous pollution.
The clean car standards established by EPA the Department of Transportation (DOT) are supported by U.S. auto makers, the United Auto Workers, and a dozen states – among others – because they provide significant environmental, economic, and energy security benefits.
There is much at stake for our nation's environment and economy. There is much at stake for our nation's environment and economy. Texas should be a leader in supporting clean car standards instead of a lone cowboy fighting against them.