Are oil companies large enough to challenge EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations?



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    Under US law, theoretically anyone, regardless of the economic resources at their disposal, can file an administrative or court challenge to the implementation of agency regulations so long as they can demonstrate something called “standing.” Standing is a legal concept that means you have to prove that the rules you’re challenging will materially impact you, as opposed to someone else. For example, say the federal government sets aside a million acres in Wyoming as a national park. Suppose you live in Florida. You can’t file an action to challenge the designation of the land in Wyoming as a national park because it doesn’t affect you enough. However, if you owned prime land in Wyoming that was suddenly useless to you for development because of the designation of the park, you would have standing to challenge the rules. In the case of EPA’s greenhouse gas emission regulations, which are still under development, if anyone can make a legal showing that they will be impacted by them, they can maintain a challenge. (Note that even if they make this showing, that doesn’t mean they win and the regulations are invalid–it just means they have a chance to go before a court or an administrative judge to try to prove their case as to why the regulations are illegal).

    I’m sure that oil companies will challenge the regulations, and, being economically powerful, they have the financial resources to sustain a large-scale, long-term litigation effort in federal courts even if it lasts for years, which it probably will. But oil companies aren’t the first challengers. The US Chamber of Commerce has challenged the EPA’s process in arriving at the conclusion that it can regulate greenhouse gases, and a politician, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has already mounted a similar challenge. Keep in mind that the rules themselves aren’t even out yet; EPA has just stated that it believes it has the authority to make those rules. It’s clear that there will be many challenges to the concept of regulating greenhouse gases, at every step of the process, and I’m quite sure oil companies as well as many other economic interests will be involved.

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