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Tomblin, Morrisey seek to block EPA on emissions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey this week sought to have their say in an effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to block federal regulations aimed at curbing global warming.

On Friday, Tomblin and Morrisey announced that they had filed a "friend of the court" brief in one of a barrage of new petitions that seek to overturn a landmark 2007 ruling confirming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's duty to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

Their brief, filed Thursday, joined with Kansas and Montana in supporting a petition filed last month by Texas and 11 other states urging the Supreme Court to throw out the ruling.

West Virginia officials are not parties to the case, but instead submitted an amicus curiae brief, a legal filing aimed at providing additional information to a court.

Tomblin and Morrisey said in a prepared statement that EPA greenhouse rules are another example of the federal agency overstepping its authority in a way that hurts West Virginia's coal industry.

"I hope the high court recognizes the urgency and critical importance of our brief for all Americans," Tomblin said in the statement.

The 32-page brief argues that the EPA's rules "would impose enormous costs on businesses that must comply with the unprecedented new permit requirements, on their customers, and on the states that must administer this new program."

Scientific evidence continues to mount that human activities -- primarily the burning of fossil fuels such as coal -- are altering the planet's climate in potentially dangerous ways. Last week, a review of nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed studies, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, reported a 97 percent consensus that humans are causing global warming.

Many West Virginia political leaders reject the scientific evidence and continue to oppose efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.

In a 2007 ruling in a case called Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and must be regulated if the agency finds them to be a danger to public health and welfare.

The EPA issued such a finding in 2009, and has used its conclusions to support a rule aimed at reducing vehicle tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases and a proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power plants.

Texas officials argue in their petition that the EPA was wrong when it issued a "tailoring rule" aimed at limiting its greenhouse gas rules for stationary pollution sources to only the largest industrial emitters. The petition says the move violated Clean Air Act thresholds that would have applied the rules to a far larger class of emitters.

The Texas petition argues that Massachusetts v. EPA should be overturned "in light of the absurd permitting burdens that follow from treating carbon dioxide as an air pollutant" and complying with the statute's emissions thresholds.

When it upheld the EPA rules last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals commented that throwing out the agency's effort to limit the scope of its rules would not really lessen the burden on industry.

"Far from it," the court said. "If anything, vacature of the tailoring rule would significantly exacerbate petitioners' injuries."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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