By Craig B. Simonsen

We had previously blogged about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s  (EPA’s) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) “tailoring rules” for Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting, and about its GHG “Endangerment Finding“. Yesterday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled concerning both of these rulemakings. Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Et al. v. EPA, — F.3d —-, 2012 WL 2381955 (D.C. Cir., June 26, 2012).

In that case, the Petitioners were various states and industry groups, who argued that the rules were based on improper constructions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and were otherwise arbitrary and capricious. The Court concluded that the Endangerment Finding was neither arbitrary nor capricious; that the EPA’s interpretation of the governing CAA provisions was unambiguously correct; and that no petitioner had standing to challenge the tailoring rules. All of the petitions for review of the tailoring rules were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, and the remainder of the petitions were denied. “We decline Industry Petitioners’ invitation to rule on the merits of cases which are properly before different panels.”

The Court concluded by noting that “Industry Petitioners were regulated and State Petitioners required to issue permits not because of anything EPA did in the Timing and Tailoring Rules, but by automatic operation of the statute. Given this, neither the Timing nor Tailoring Rules caused the injury Petitioners allege: having to comply with PSD and Title V for greenhouse gases.” As the Court pointed out, the tailoring rules may have actually mitigated the Petitioners’ alleged injuries. Without the tailoring rule, an even larger number of industry and state-owned sources would potentially have been subject to PSD and Title V permitting, and state authorities might have correspondingly been overwhelmed with millions of additional permit applications.

Among other impacts, this ruling is expected to limit the construction of new coal plants as energy providers move toward cleaner fuels, such as natural gas.