Court Upholds EPA Climate Rules

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke UniversitThe Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

A federal appeals court this week upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules governing greenhouse gases. In the landmark ruling, judges rejected a series of lawsuits challenging the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, acknowledging that the agency is “unambiguously correct” in its use of the law.

Members of industry and 14 states had initially challenged the rules. The ruling clears the way for the agency to move forward limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, cars and other large industrial sources using the Clean Air Act. Under the rules, EPA requires new and expanding facilities to use obtain construction and operating permits. This is in addition to  tailpipe rules, which set mileage and emissions standards for new vehicles.

EPA’s most suspect rule—the tailoring rule that would allow smaller sources to go unpermitted—also was allowed to stand because no litigant had standing to challenge it. Responding to challengers’ assertions that striking the rule would cure their injury because the onerous regulatory regime would force Congress  to enact “corrective legislation” to relieve permitting burdens caused by the new rules, the court cited the 1975 Schoolhouse Rock song, “I’m Just a Bill”—and even linked to the video in its ruling. For now, attorneys for those involved in the lawsuit are reviewing the decision and are “likely to either seek a rehearing before the full D.C. Circuit or possibly file for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

While the Rio+20 Earth Summit ended with weak text calling for the world to move to a “green economy and phase out fossil fuels,” a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests leaders forgo such meetings because tackling global climate change is as easy as scaling up what countries and states are already doing. CNN reports the U.S. is in fact managing to curb some carbon emissions due, in part, to cheap natural gas, the economy and investments in energy efficiency.

Sea Levels Rise Globally, East Coast to Take Hardest Hit

Around the world, sea levels are rising. Nowhere are they rising faster than the United States’ East Coast, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey. When compared to global averages since 1990, the Atlantic Ocean is rising, annually, three to four times faster than in other areas of the world. Several cities along the 600-mile stretch running from North Carolina to Massachusetts are experiencing significant jumps, including Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia, with spikes of 4.8 inches and 3.7 inches, respectively.

North Carolina—which was considering a bill forbidding the use of models that include accelerating sea level rise—would experience an even higher sea level threat than the 39-inch increase by 2100 a panel of state experts predicted in 2010. That bill has since been rejected by the House of Representatives, but lawmakers continue to work on another version.

New studies are not just threatening the East Coast—they reflect changes on the West Coast as well. A National Research Council report describes a rise of several inches over the next two decades, and more as the years go on. Southern and central California will be the hardest hit, with a rise of six inches by 2030. Oregon and Washington will see less dramatic changes of four inches in the same window, then two feet by 2100.

BP Expanding after Spill

BP was among the biggest spenders at a recent auction of Central Gulf oil leases—the first since the 2010 Gulf spill—laying down millions and winning 43 leases. This is amid new studies linking the BP oil spill to accelerated loss of Louisiana marshland, which is eroding at twice the rate of non-oiled marshes, as well as a large numbers of spill claims.


The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.