WASHINGTON, June 25 U.S. President Barack Obama
will rely on the federal Clean Air Act as he tries to make good
on his latest vow to address the threat of global warming.
Obama will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to use
the Act to finish a plan setting carbon pollution limits on new
power plants by Sept. 20 this year and draft a plan for existing
power plants by June 2014.
Legal challenges are almost guaranteed for federal rules
written under the Clean Air Act. Industry groups and
coal-reliant states have already signaled that they will
challenge power plant regulations if they feel the EPA produces
a plan that has overly strict timetables or emissions limits
that "violate the spirit of the Clean Air Act," one industry
The following are major recent legal challenges to the Clean
MASSACHUSETTS VS. EPA, 2007
In a landmark 2007 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4
against the George W. Bush administration in finding that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authority under the
Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide.
AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER VS. CONNECTICUT, 2011:
In a sequel of sorts to Massachusetts vs. EPA, the court
ruled 8-0 in 2011 that states cannot seek action to curb
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions based on so-called
"public nuisance" claims under federal common law.
COALITION FOR RESPONSIBLE REGULATION VS. EPA, 2012:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit is typically where EPA cases are heard.
In this lawsuit, the D.C. Circuit decided unanimously to uphold
the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean
Air Act. The suit was filed by an umbrella organization of
industry groups and coal-reliant states who challenged four EPA
rules that address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The groups targeted the EPA's scientific finding that
enabled the agency to regulate GHG emissions, along with
greenhouse gas rules for new vehicles and rules outlining when
greenhouse gas regulations will begin. The U.S. Chamber of
Commerce and other industry groups, along with states such as
Texas and Virginia, filed nine separate petitions with the
Supreme Court to appeal the lower court's ruling.
EME HOMER CITY GENERATION VS. EPA, 2012:
The D.C. Circuit court ruled 2-1 in August that the EPA had
exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act when it required
28 states to curb downwind air pollution from power plants to a
greater extent than the statute requires.
The suit pitted a group of power company representatives and
states opposed to the regulation against the EPA and attorneys
general of supportive states. The D.C. Circuit denied a
rehearing but the Supreme Court on June 24 said it would accept
a petition by the EPA to hear the appeal.
LAS BRISAS ENERGY CENTER LLC VS. EPA, 2012:
In December, the DC Circuit dismissed a preemptive move by
the power industry to challenge the EPA's proposed New Source
Performance Standard for carbon emissions from new power plants,
which has still not yet been finalized. The rules were supposed
to have been finished in April 2013 but the EPA missed that
deadline. Obama's climate plan directs the EPA to finish the
rule by September 20. The DC Circuit said the proposal was not
final and not subject to agency review.
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY VS. EPA, 2012:
Several environmental groups filed a suit to force the EPA
to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from aircrafts, ships, and
non-road engines. They argued these sources produce about a
quarter of the GHG emissions from mobile sources in the United
States but are unregulated. The court ruled in March 2012 that
the EPA does not need to rush a scientific finding to determine
whether it should regulate those sources. The agency plans to
release findings on aircraft emissions in the future.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, editing by Ros Krasny and