Virginia challenges U.S. greenhouse gas curbs

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; B05

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) on Tuesday filed paperwork attacking the legal underpinnings of an Obama administration effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, joining a crowd of political conservatives and business groups with similar objections.

Cuccinelli sent a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking the agency to reconsider its finding in December that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health by contributing to climate change. That finding is a legal trigger, which would allow the EPA to regulate those gases under the Clean Air Act, the same way it regulates the pollutants that cause smog.

Cuccinelli also filed a separate petition asking a federal court to review the EPA's finding.

In a news release, Cuccinelli's office said the EPA should review its findings because of "newly available information." In a telephone interview Tuesday, a spokesman for Cuccinelli would not comment on that information. He said Cuccinelli would explain in a news conference in Richmond on Wednesday.

Cuccinelli's petition seemed to be his boldest stroke since he took office last month, after a campaign in which he promised to use the attorney general's office to pursue conservative goals.

Rutgers University law professor Craig Oren said it could be a difficult effort. For it to succeed, Oren said it could require proving that the EPA willfully disregarded available science, its own rules or precedent. "You have to show EPA was arbitrary," he said. "I give them less than 50-50" odds.

Texas filed a similar petition challenging the EPA's finding Tuesday. Officials there said the finding is "legally unsupported" because it relies on scientific findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an arm of the United Nations.

That panel found in a 2007 report that climate change was "unequivocal." In recent months, however, scientists have noted errors in the document stemming from typographical mistakes and sloppy sourcing. In addition, Texas officials cited e-mails taken from a climate change research center in Britain, in which scientists discussed how to keep their critics out of scientific journals.

The EPA's findings were "based on the tainted data of an agenda-driven international panel," Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said at a news conference. Legal challenges have also been filed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Iron and Steel Institute.

EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy said in a statement: "The EPA's endangerment finding is grounded in overwhelming science and the law. EPA is confident that the finding will withstand legal challenge and allow the agency to protect the American people from the significant dangers posed by greenhouse gases and carbon pollution."

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