U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson rebuffed recent efforts to prevent her agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions yesterday, stating that the evidence proving climate change is a problem remains "robust, voluminous and compelling."

Jackson rejected 10 petitions filed by the attorneys general of Texas and Virginia, the Ohio Coal Association and other groups that urged her to nullify the "endangerment" finding -- the EPA ruling that stated greenhouse gases pose a direct threat to human health and welfare. That ruling triggered the legal requirement for their regulation.

Petitioners had pointed to errors in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the "Climategate" scandal last fall as examples of how the foundation for EPA's ruling may be flawed or skewed.

But Jackson brushed such critiques aside. "These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination," she said, in a statement.

The body of science from IPCC, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Academy of Sciences supports the agency's finding that greenhouse gases threaten human health, according to Jackson. And the endangerment finding has been "decades in the making," her 217-page denial stated.

"EPA has determined that the petitioners' arguments and evidence are inadequate, generally unscientific, and do not show that the underlying science supporting the endangerment finding is flawed," the document read.

The agency's endangerment finding, which did not itself impose any regulations, set the stage for climate-based regulations on tailpipe emissions and those from coal-fired power plants.

In addition to EPA's 217-page denial, the agency penned a 360-page response, detailing its arguments against the 10 petitioners' claims and assertions.

Now, to the courts
Yesterday's strongly worded denial will certainly not be the last word in this pitched battle as petitioners sketch out plans to take further legal action.

Previous challenges in the federal court system were held up while EPA reviewed the petitions, but the agency's decision unlocked those suits and will allow them to move forward within the court-based appeals process. Five petitioners yesterday told ClimateWire by publication time that they intend to appeal the ruling.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation's policy director, Todd Young, said his group expects to "appeal this decision immediately, hopefully as early as tomorrow."

"All we asked for when we sought reconsideration was a full and fair look at whether or not EPA's science standards had been maintained in the production of the endangerment finding. We still don't think that's happened," said Scott Oostdyk, the lead attorney representing the Ohio Coal Association's petition. The group will continue to air its concerns in the court system, he said.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and state of Virginia also indicated they will move forward with the matter in court. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office added in a statement that the court will likely find EPA's decisions to be "fatally flawed."

The 10 rejected petitions were filed by the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Ohio Coal Association, the Pacific Legal Foundation, Peabody Energy Co., the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the states of Texas and Virginia, and one private citizen.

Environmental groups applauded EPA's decision yesterday as an important step to protect human health. "After a decade of record-high temperatures, there's never been a more urgent time to protect the EPA's authority to address carbon pollution and protect public health," said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski in a statement.

While resurrecting a climate bill this year appears increasingly unlikely, EPA's decision to regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases has taken on new importance. "This issue is not going away," explained Manik Roy, the vice president for federal government outreach at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

"If the Senate does not address this issue this year it will come back again and again and again," Roy said. "The lack of regulation in this area has created a vacuum which the states, EPA and others are moving to fill, but it's not the best way to solve this problem."

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500