THE increased focus on climate change from the Obama Administration, including Gina McCarthy, nominee for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, prompted the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA) to challenge EPA's rush to implement regulations that would limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
NCBA, as part of the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, filed a petition April 18 in the Supreme Court challenging EPA's finding that GHGs endanger public health and welfare, its rule to limit GHGs from passenger vehicles and its "timing" and "tailoring" of rules that govern GHG permit applicability at stationary sources.
In December 2009, EPA issued a finding that GHGs are an "endangerment" to public health and the environment, providing EPA with a foundation from which to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act from small and large sources throughout the economy, including farming and ranching operations.
NCBA filed a petition with the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and EPA challenging the science behind EPA's finding, but the court dismissed the challenge last June.
The court also denied challenges to EPA's endangerment finding for GHGs and subsequent emission standards for cars and light-duty trucks.
Ashley McDonald, NCBA deputy environmental counsel, explained that the latest suit hinges on whether the court determines that EPA can pursue a regulatory scheme that will have a "negligible effect on climate change," and if the regulations don't make a difference, she questioned whether they should even be allowed.
"It gets back to the question of whether the Clean Air Act is (the proper channel for) dealing with these types of pollutants," McDonald said of GHGs.
"We continue to believe that it isn't the proper way to regulate these types of pollutants," she said of the administrative — rather than legislative — approach to setting up a scheme to protect public health.
"The Clean Air Act is not an appropriate vehicle to regulate greenhouse gases, and we are certain this manipulation of the act goes against congressional intent," McDonald added. "Once again, EPA continues to promulgate regulations that have a negative impact on producers' ability to provide safe and affordable food for our nation and the world."
Climate change legislation has not gained much traction in recent years. McDonald noted that with the current legislative makeup, she doesn't anticipate a "realistic fix" from this Congress.
"The party lines are clearly drawn, and with the chambers split, I don't see enough people crossing the aisle one way or another to solve this issue," she explained.
McDonald said the agriculture industry is worried about what could happen if EPA decides to lower the current threshold, which could pull operations with fewer and fewer GHG emissions into the regulatory scheme. The costs associated with this could be devastating and force operations out of business, she warned.
It may not be known until this fall whether the Supreme Court will decide to hear the case.