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House Committee Probes Legal Status of Greenhouse Gases

News Releases

Washington, D.C., March 13, 2003—Today, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) response to the Supreme Court global warming case, Massachusetts v. EPA (April 2, 2007).

Witnesses include, among others, U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and two plaintiffs in Mass. v. EPA, Lisa Heinzerling, professor, Georgetown UniversityLaw Center, and David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel, Sierra Club.

Plaintiffs in Mass. v. EPA wanted EPA to issue a finding that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) endanger public health and welfare, and, based on such finding, propose first-ever GHG tailpipe emission standards for new cars and trucks. However, setting GHG tailpipe standards could trigger a massive expansion of EPA regulation of stationary sources under the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permitting program.

Similarly, an endangerment finding under the CAA’s mobile emissions program (CAA Section 202) could compel EPA to initiate economy-wide regulation of CO2 under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program (CAA Section 108).

“America could end up with a carbon-suppression regime far more onerous than any Congress is currently debating, yet without Congress ever voting on it—and without any of Al Gore’s congressional allies taking responsibility for the economic and administrative burdens,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis. “Today’s hearing gives the Select Committee an opportunity to probe core issues that both EPA and plaintiffs ignored in Mass. v. EPA.”

Questions Committee members and media should ask include:

(1) When plaintiffs were arguing before the Court, were they aware that regulating CO2 under Section 202 could trigger a massive expansion of stationary source regulation under the PSD program?

(2) When Congress enacted Section 202 in 1970, did it intend for EPA to regulate untold thousands of stationary sources for global warming purposes?

(3) Did the Court err in deciding that EPA has authority to regulate CO2 under Section 202, if such regulation necessarily leads to results Congress could not have intended and never approved?

(4) Would an endangerment finding under Section 202 set the stage for litigation to regulate CO2 under the NAAQS program? 

(5) In Mass. v. EPA, did plaintiffs intend to establish a precedent for CO2 regulation under the NAAQS program? If not, will they pledge to abstain from litigation aimed at compelling EPA to initiate a NAAQS rulemaking for CO2?