The State of Texas’ fight to avoid permitting greenhouse gas emissions was dealt a blow today when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to impose federal GHG permits in several states. In a split 2-1 decision, the court found that Texas lacked standing to challenge EPA’s action and that other industry claims were unavailing.
The court’s opinion is the latest in a series of skirmishes between Texas and the EPA over greenhouse gas regulation. In 2009, the EPA issued an “Endangerment Finding” concluding that greenhouse gases were “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. The following year, the EPA ordered 13 states (including Texas) to update their State Implementation Plans, or “SIPs” (state designed plans to meet federal environmental standards) to include permitting for greenhouse gas emissions. When Texas refused, the EPA partially disapproved Texas’ SIP and imposed its own federal permitting scheme. Texas responded by bringing legal challenges to both of these actions, as well as to the Endangerment Finding and other underlying regulations. Earlier this summer the D.C. Circuit rejected challenges to the Endangerment Finding, which turned Texas’ SIP-related challenges into an uphill struggle. The court’s decision on the substantive challenges is currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While the ultimate outcome of the case has major implications for the future of the U.S. economy, the impact of today’s decision is likely to be minimal. In May, the Texas legislature passed legislation allowing the state to permit greenhouse gas emissions pending full resolution of the legal challenges.