In response to the EPA’s failure to respond to petitions requesting regulations on GHG emissions from ships and aircraft, a coalition of conservation groups and numerous states and jurisdictions announced their plans yesterday to sue EPA.

The coalition, represented by the environmental law firm Earthjustice, filed petitions with the EPA in October and December 2007 requesting EPA to determine whether GHG emissions from marine vessels and aircraft endanger public health and welfare and to issue regulations accordingly. EPA did not respond to the petitions within the time frame requested. In a letter to EPA, the group detailed their intent to file a lawsuit based upon an “unreasonable delay” in responding to both petitions. The group contends that EPA delayed its legal obligations by issuing an ANPR for GHG emissions on July 11, 2008 which “does not indicate whether EPA intends to regulate greenhouse gases, does not propose a specific course of action for doing so, and is not responsive to the specific requests made in the marine vessels and aircraft petitions.” In a statement made by Martin Wagner of Earthjustice, he said that “more than 15 months after the Supreme Court’s order, EPA, once again, has ignored it legal - - and moral - - obligation to act quickly to protect the health and welfare of Americans. The Bush administration is wasting precious time with continued foot dragging - - time that we don’t have. We have gone to court to force action by this or the next administration.”

It will be interesting to see what role EPA's ANPR on GHG emissions plays in this case. Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the ANPR, which addresses GHGs from all sources, was a suitable response to the Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA that the EPA must determine whether GHG emissions from mobile sources are reasonably likely to endanger the public health or welfare. Because the ANPR discusses and seeks comment regarding GHG emissions from marine vessels and aircraft, a court could similarly find that the ANPR is a suitable response to the coalition's petitions. But, on the other hand, a court could find that the ANPR was not issued in direct response to the coalitions and that the EPA is obligated to provide a direct response. In any event, this suit is another sign that EPA's hands will continue to be pressed on the issue of regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act.

The group plans to file its lawsuit within 180 days from the date of their notice letter.