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Legal Resources

Global Warming Litigation
Clean Air Act Cases

Updated: April 2007

 

 

Clean Air Act  

Coke Oven Envtl. Taskforce v. EPA, No. 06-1131 (D.C. Cir. filed Apr. 7, 2006).

Petitioners, including three environmental groups, ten states, and two cities, filed suit in D.C. Circuit Court, asking EPA to enforce reductions in air pollution for new stationary sources. Included is a request to standardize the maximum permissible amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Since the issue of whether EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions is being decided in Massachusetts v. EPA, infra, by the Supreme Court, Coke Oven is stayed until Massachusetts is decided.  

 

Massachusetts v. EPA, 415 F.3d 50 (D.C. Cir. 2005), cert. granted, 126 S.Ct. 2960 (2006).

In 2003, EPA stated that it had no authority to regulate CO2 emissions under the CAA and even if it had such authority, it was within the Agency’s discretion to choose not to regulate. A collection of petitioners argued that this refusal was improper before the D.C. Circuit Court. They argued that (1) regulation of CO2 is within EPA’s authority based on the unambiguous definition of “air pollutants” within the CAA, (2) EPA discounted whether emissions may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare and instead relied on unauthorized factors for its decision not to regulate, and (3) global warming caused by failure to regulate CO2 emissions will inflict individual harm to the petitioners, establishing standing. The Court dismissed the case in 2005. The Supreme Court granted cert and heard arguments in November 2006. The Court decided the case in April of 2007 ruling in favor of Massachusetts.

 

 

Northwest Envtl . Def. Ctr. v. Owens Corning Corp., 434 F.Supp.2d 957 (D.Or. 2006).

The petitioning environmental organizations brought suit before the United States District Court in Oregon against Owens Corning for planning to construct a factory without a permit which would have emitted harmful gases, including greenhouse gases, in violation of the CAA and state laws. Owens Corning moved for dismissal on grounds of lack of standing and argued to limit potential damages to those incurred only on the day construction commenced and to strike the federal claims. In June 2006, the court denied each of these motions, finding that the petitioners had standing, and permitted the suit to continue. The court's ruling is an important legal precedent for citizen groups bringing litigation related to climate change and ozone depletion. The Northwest Environmental Defense Center settled the case after the favorable standing ruling and required that Owens Corning agree never to use the harmful gases (HCFC-142b) in Oregon and withdraw its permit application. Additionally, Owens Corning provided substantial funds towards Supplemental Environmental Projects, including money to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for solar demonstration projects.

 

United States v. Duke Energy Corp., 411 F.3d 539 (4th Cir. 2005), cert. granted sub nom. Envtl. Def. v. Duke Energy Corp., 126 S.Ct. 2019 (2006).

EPA sued Duke Energy for making a modification of a power plant which allegedly increased the amount of air pollution without first obtaining a permit. At issue was what the CAA means by an increase in air pollution. EPA, later joined by Environmental Defense and associated petitioners, argued that any modification which leads to an increase in total pollution emitted is an increase as defined by the CAA. Duke Energy argued that only a modification which causes an increase in the hourly rate of emission is an increase under the CAA. The Fourth Circuit Court ruled that EPA lacked the authority to require a permit. The Supreme Court granted cert and the case was argued in November 2006. The Court found in favor of the government in April 2007.

 

 


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