On January 15, 2009 the Sierra Club filed a petition in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging EPA Administrator Johnson’s memo in response to Deseret Power. The petition seeks the Court to throw out the Johnson memo. The memo would allow current permits to proceed without considering controls for CO2 or other greenhouse gases.
If the memo is revoked or thrown out it would clear the way for the soon-to-be Administrator Jackson to issue her own interpretation. But would she likely take such an action? I doubt it.
The petition filed in the Court is procedural in nature and does not contain any insight into the Sierra Club’s arguments. However, you can review the petition the Sierra Club filed with EPA Administrator Johnson first which contains twenty pages of argument as to why the memo is illegal. The group summarizes their attack on the memo in the following fashion:
As discussed below, this final agency action was impermissible as a matter of
law, because it was issued in violation of the procedural requirements of the
Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., and the Clean Air Act
(“CAA”), 42 U.S.C. § 7607, it directly conflicts with prior agency actions and
interpretations, and it purports to establish an interpretation of the Act that conflicts with the plain language of the statute.
Many environmental groups are expecting that the future EPA Administrator will simply revoke the memo. In the alternative, if their legal challenge is successful they expect future Administrator Jackson to issue her own interpretation which says CO2 is a regulated pollutant.
I think they may be disappointed. If such a memo were issued it would trigger an array of Clean Air Act regulations of CO2 emissions. Many of these regulations are ill-suited for controlling CO2. I would expect the future Administrator will get strong advice from her staff at EPA to proceed with caution in adopting new interpretations that could result in instantaneous regulation. At a minimum, I believe they will advise that EPA construct a regulatory scheme in a deliberate fashion through a formal rulemaking process which could take at least a year.