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US appeals court upholds rules curbing greenhouse gases

A US court has unanimously upheld the efforts of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from industry and automobiles. The 26 June ruling, from a federal appeals court in Washington DC, dismisses the complaints brought against the federal government by, among others, four states — Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and North Dakota — and paves the way for further regulations.

“In the end, petitioners are asking us to re-weigh the scientific evidence before EPA and reach our own conclusion. This is not our role,” said the panel of three judges in a sharply worded 82-page brief.

The EPA has been ramping up its efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions ince a 2007 US Supreme Court decision that allowed the agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the 1970 Clean Air Act. The court ruling on Tuesday found that in 2009, when the EPA labelled greenhouse gases a danger to public health, it was being “neither arbitrary nor capricious”. They also dismissed objections to the EPA’s later vehicular- and industrial-emissions rules.

The judges took particular issue with the allegations that the EPA has relied too much on reports from other agencies and uncertain climate science. “EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question,” said the panel.

Unsurprisingly, the decision has drawn outcries from industry and applause from the environmental community. Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington DC, said in a statement that the ruling is “a setback for businesses facing damaging regulations from the EPA.” David Doniger, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, based in New York, said in a statement that the ruling allows the EPA “to keep moving forward”.

According to the Washington Post, opponents have already said that they intend to appeal the decision, and the New York Times reports that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has already made greenhouse-gas regulations a campaign issue.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia/Dori

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