“I’m Just a Bill”: The D.C. Circuit Cites Schoolhouse Rock and Upholds Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

Environmental Update



On June 26, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a series of challenges to EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc., et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 09-1322, No. 10-1073, No. 10-1092; American Chemistry Council v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 10-1167. The petitioners, representing various states and industry groups, challenged several of EPA’s rulemakings related to greenhouse gases under the authority of the CAA, specifically, (a) the Endangerment Finding, in which EPA determined that emissions of greenhouse gases may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare; (b) the Tailpipe Rule, which established greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks; (c) EPA’s longstanding position that the permit requirements for the construction and modification (PSD) or operation (Title V) of major emitting facilities is triggered by emissions of any pollutant that is regulated under the CAA that exceeds certain statutory thresholds; and (d) the Timing and Tailoring Rules, which, in effect, set a phased-in approach for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, starting with only the largest emitters.

The D.C. Circuit rejected the challenges to the above actions on the grounds that EPA’s decisions with respect to the Endangerment Finding and the Tailpipe Rule were neither arbitrary nor capricious and that EPA was unambiguously correct in interpreting the CAA to include greenhouse gases in its PSD and Title V permitting programs. The court avoided addressing the merits of the Timing and Tailoring Rules, dismissing the challenges to those Rules on the grounds that the petitioners lacked standing. The court reasoned that the petitioners failed to establish standing because they could not show that the Timing and Tailoring Rules were the cause of their purported injuries and because they could not show that those injuries were likely to be redressed by vacatur of the Rules. Petitioners had argued that, although the result of a favorable decision by the court would “unleash chaos” resulting in “astronomical costs,” those injuries would be redressed because Congress would be compelled to take corrective action. Quoting the popular Schoolhouse Rock song, “I’m Just a Bill,” the court reasoned that “it’s not easy to become a law,” and that standing could not rest on the hypothesis that Congress would pass, and the President would sign, legislation that alleviated the petitioners’ purported injuries.