Texas Files Challenge to EPA "Endangerment Finding"

Acting on behalf of 14 other states, the state of Texas today filed an opening brief in its case seeking to overturn a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare.

The so-called "endangerment" finding, announced by the EPA in December 2009, has been a crucial stepping stone toward federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, which is being phased in gradually after beginning in January. (Texas has fiercely resisted implementing those regulations, however, and other states' efforts are hampered by budget cuts to the EPA.)

Texas is challenging the endangerment finding on the grounds that the EPA's decision was "arbitrary and capricious" — trigger words in U.S. code that could void a decision by the agency. Specifically, the brief asserts, the EPA "never provides criteria for determining when [greenhouse gas] emissions or climate change endanger public health or welfare." The brief also argues that the agency did not take into account the possibility that people might adapt to climate change over the extended time period in which it occurs (or even be able to combat its effects) — thus reducing the effect of climate change on their health and welfare.

The 14 states joining Texas in filing the brief include Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Oklahoma. The brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In addition to the endangerment finding case, Texas is also challenging a handful of EPA rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as those from automobile tailpipes. However, "this is the first brief filed with any of the greenhouse gas cases," said Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott's office.

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