A variety of business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), last week filed a petition in federal court challenging the U.S. EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act.  Also petitioning in this latest round of filings are the American Petroleum Institute, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, the National Association of Home Builders, the Corn Refiners Association, the Brick Industry Association, the Western States Petroleum Association, and the National Oilseed Processors Association.

The groups are challenging EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” determination, and asserting that EPA hasn’t asked the right questions, or sought the right information, and hasn’t met the government’s burden under the standards set forth in the Clean Air Act.  The endangerment finding was based in large measure on the scientific findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC findings have come under fire since e-mails were disclosed in November which seem to show that some scientists were trying to manipulate the data to falsely show that climate change is occurring.

Raising the slippery slope problem, the petitioners worry that if EPA moves forward and begins regulating stationary sources, it may open the door for them to regulate everything from industrial facilities to farms to even American homes. Such a move would further complicate a permitting process that EPA is not equipped to handle, while increasing costs to the manufacturing sector. According to some published estimates, the “Endangerment Finding” and subsequent regulations will trigger new permitting requirements for more than 6 million stationary sources. These 6 million sources may include 200,000 manufacturing facilities, approximately 20,000 farms, and another 200,000 other sources such as universities, schools and even American homes, impacting every aspect of the U.S. economy. These costly burdens and uncertainty, they observe, will stifle job creation and harm our competitiveness in a global economy.

The organizations note they support a comprehensive climate change policy that achieves real environmental results while also fostering continued economic growth – essential conditions for a healthy manufacturing sector in the United States.  The state of Texas has also joined the list of opponents of the EPA’s finding. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a petition already.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had announced the agency finding back in December that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and that cars and light trucks cause or contribute to the emissions. See 74 Fed. Reg. 66,496.  The agency is reportedly planning to take regulatory action in March, under the Clean Air Act.

The finding responded to a decision in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court saying that greenhouse gas emissions fall under the definitions of the Clean Air Act, but that EPA must make a finding on whether they endanger public health and welfare and justify its decision based on science. See Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007).