Court won't revisit greenhouse gas ruling

The decision in June by a three-judge panel determined EPA properly evaluated the health effects of greenhouse gas emissions. That allowed the agency to continue regulating those emissions through the Clean Air Act.

The Obama administration has pushed ahead with the first-ever emissions limits on new coal-fired power plants, and could do the same for existing power plants in his second term.

Michael Brune, executive director with the Sierra Club, has urged Obama to do just that, and commended the court Thursday for standing by their ruling.

“The Sierra Club applauds the court’s decision to deny these baseless challenges from major industrial polluters. With today’s decision, the path is clear for the EPA to continue its work implementing essential climate and public health safeguards," he said in a statement.

Energy firms and industry have warned EPA regulations rolled out during Obama’s tenure are economically burdensome. They say it will force electricity rates higher and shudder enough coal-fired generation to create power shortages in some parts of the country.

Jay Timmons, chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers — one of the groups to petition the June court decision — said his organization is "carefully considering" a Supreme Court challenge.

"The debate over how to address climate change should take place in the halls of Congress and should foster economic growth and job creation, not impose additional costs on businesses," Timmons said in a Thursday statement.

The groups seeking a rehearing contended the EPA relied on faulty scientific data to draw its conclusions.

Circuit Judge David Sentelle, writing an opinion for the court, disagreed.

“Of course, we agree that the statute requires EPA to find a particular causal nexus between the pollutant and the harm in order to regulate. … But that is exactly what EPA did: it found that ‘greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare,’” Sentelle wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Brett Kavanaugh argued the Clean Air Act should only govern the six pollutants listed under national ambient air quality standards. He said regulating greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, went too far.

Sentelle disagreed, saying that with the Clean Air Act, “Congress did not say ‘certain ‘air pollutants.’ … It said ‘any air pollutant,’ and it meant it.”