In Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia finds no statutory basis for exempting "biogenic carbon dioxide” – the term for pollution generated by plants and other organic materials rather than fossil fuels – from federal emissions requirements.
Under a 2011 provision known as the “deferral rule,” EPA was given until 2014 to develop standards for such sources. At the same time, however, the agency admitted that carbon dioxide from ethanol production, biological waste decomposing in landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, and burning wood and agricultural materials has the same impact on the atmosphere as carbon dioxide from cars and power plants.
That prompted environmental groups to sue to keep the rule from going into effect.
The court found that all carbon dioxide is created equal.
“Although the Deferral Rule spends pages explaining the scientific uncertainty about biogenic carbon dioxide sources, the additional research EPA plans to undertake, and why three more years of study are warranted, the rule . . . nowhere offers an interpretation of the Clean Air Act that would allow the agency to treat biogenic carbon dioxide sources differently,"the court ruled in a 2-1 decision. "This deficiency is not merely the result of scientific uncertainty,”
The dissenting judge thinks the agency should have the flexibility to delay the rule “until it has the time it says it needs to study and resolve the issue it is charged with regulating.”
Don't feel like you have to immediately begin implementing emissions-control measures, however. EPA's reviewing options, so this case is far from closed.