“To be sure, the stakes here are high. The underlying policy questions and the outcome of this case are undoubtedly matters of exceptional importance.”

– D.C. Circuit Judges Sentelle, Rogers, and Tatel, Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 09-1322.

Last June, the D.C. Circuit upheld the EPA’s new emissions restrictions for automobiles and commercial and industrial facilities – a momentous decision that validated the EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act to combat climate change. In promulgating its “Endangerment Finding,” the EPA determined that carbon dioxide poses a significant threat to the welfare of Americans, triggering broad Federal regulations of this new class of “pollutants.” The Supreme Court has held “if

[the] EPA makes [such a finding], the Clean Air Act requires the Agency to regulate emissions of the deleterious pollutant.”

In petitions filed in the Supreme Court in March and April, plaintiffs are asking for a review of the Agency’s Endangerment Finding, arguing that the pronouncement was issued without first providing an opportunity for scientific peer review – a process established to ensure the credibility of EPA conclusions.

One petitioner, Pacific Legal Foundation, argues that “because carbon dioxide is virtually everywhere and in everything,” the un-scrutinized Endangerment Finding “confers upon the EPA unprecedented authority to direct and control the Nation’s physical, economic, and social infrastructure.”

Virginia, Utah, and Kentucky, in a separate petition, assert that the EPA’s proposed regulation of greenhouse gases could potentially reduce U.S. employment from between one-half to 1.5 million jobs and carry “compliance costs ranging in the tens of billions annually.” The EPA itself has acknowledged that the additional paperwork costs alone from adding carbon dioxide and related substances to the Clean Air Act’s regulatory scheme could reach $22.5 billion.

The Solicitor General is scheduled to file his brief in opposition to the vided petitions on April 22nd. He is likely to argue that certiorari is not warranted and the EPA is allowed to promulgate new emissions standards when it determines that a greenhouse gas may be reasonably anticipated to endanger the public health or welfare. The D.C. Circuit pointed to “substantial” record evidence that motor-vehicle and industrial emissions have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and caused an observed increase in Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years.

Given the societal, political and economic consequences of greenhouse gas regulation, these petitions will be closely watched this summer as temperatures and gas prices rise.

You can find Pacific Legal’s petition here, and Virginia’s petition here. Cockle is also filing petitions on behalf of Southeastern Legal Foundation, among others, in April.