The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.
The court's three-judge panel unanimously upheld the EPA's central 2009 finding that GHGs, such as carbon dioxide, endanger public health and likely have been responsible for global warming over the past half-century.
The court declined to comment on the EPA's timetable for limiting noxious emissions from motor vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities. The panel said the EPA was ‘unambiguously correct’ in claiming authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under standing the Clean Air Act.
The 14 states challenging the agency's authority argued that EPA had relied on unsound climate science in classifying GHGs as pollutants.
In terms of the impact on the wind industry, the ruling should open up opportunities for new base-loaded resources, says Bill Monsen, a principal at MRW Associates, an energy consulting firm specializing in electric power and fuel markets. ‘If wind can fill that niche, then it should expand market opportunities for new wind generation.’
He says the ruling is yet another step toward consideration of GHG in the siting and operation of power generation. ‘This can do nothing but good things for wind.’
While some characterized the court's decision as a major policy development affecting power plants that emit GHGs, others were far more critical of the policy.
"The court's decision simply leaves in place an EPA permitting requirement that has made it very difficult to build new industrial or manufacturing facilities in the U.S., says Jeff Holmstead, partner at Bracewell Giuliani and a former assistant administrator of the EPA for air and radiation.
‘When Obama officials announced these rules, they insisted that they wouldn't have a negative impact on the U.S. economy, and that companies would continue to invest in new and expanded facilities. But it hasn't turned out this way,’ he says.
According to the estimates the EPA made when it issued the rules, Holmstead says (the U.S.) should have seen about 2,000 greenhouse permits issued by now for new and expanded facilities.
‘But in the 18 months since EPA's new permitting requirements were put in place, fewer than 15 permit have been issued nationwide. The new permitting requirements that the Obama EPA has imposed have basically brought U.S. industrial development to a standstill.’