EPA Threatened with Lawsuit Over Transportation Sector Emissions

The planet is on a path to a four-degree-Celsius-warmer world by the end of his century, and current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pledges won’t do much to stop the warming, according to a recent report by the World Bank titled Turn Down the Heat. Batten down the proverbial hatches and prepare for more Hurricane Sandy-type events unless governments get serious about reducing GHG emissions. The Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School clearly understands this reality as it submitted a notice of intent last week to sue the EPA to force the organization to put a cap on carbon emissions from fuels used in vehicles, boats and planes.

The Institute submitted a formal petition to the EPA on July 29, 2009, asking for the federal agency to put a cap on GHG emissions from transportation sources. However, the EPA did not respond to the petition. That leaves the Institute with no other recourse but a lawsuit. Or, as the Institute stated in a press release, “so we will now take the next step in notifying them of our intention to sue.”

The press release noted that the EPA has, over the last four years, enacted regulations to decrease GHG emissions, but “none are as comprehensive and cost-effective as placing a cap on emissions.” According to the Institute, “That means companies pay more than necessary to comply.” The EPA has the “legal authority” under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to create a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions from fuels used in vehicles.

The 2009 petition specifically asked the EPA to do the following:

  • Make a finding under Section 211 of the CAA that greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used in motor and non-road vehicles and engines cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare
  • Propose a cap‐and‐trade system to control greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used in mobile sources under the authority of Section 211
  • Make a finding under Section 231 of the CAA that GHG emissions from aircraft engines cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare
  • Propose a joint rulemaking with the Federal Aviation Administration to incorporate fuels used in aircraft into the cap‐and‐trade system established under Section 211
  • Finalize regulations on both proposals within 90 days of the issuance of such proposed standards

TreeHugger notes that the notice of intent “comes just as President Obama signed a bill requiring U.S. airlines to be excluded from the EU airline emissions trading program, now on hold.”

Clearly, something needs to be done by the EPA to limit GHG emissions, and the transportation sector is a good place to start a federal cap-and-trade system. In 2010, the transportation sector accounted for 27 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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