The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Climate Change and the Law

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 12, 2009

Congress has passed thousands of laws during its long history and frequently, questions are raised about how to interpret them. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA has the statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles under Clean Air Act--although the law was written to control other emissions in certain locations. Similarly, the EPA this year agreed to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to review the risks of carbon dioxide absorbed into seawater.

Last Friday, an effort to use the Endangered Species Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was stopped by the Obama administration. The Interior Department decided that despite the fact that the polar bear is listed as a threatened species, the law cannot be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions with respect to polar bear habitat.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, quoted in The New York Times, explained the decision saying, "It would be very difficult for our scientists to be doing evaluations of a cement plant in Georgia or Florida and the impact it's going to have on the polar bear habitat."

API agrees with the administration's decision. In a statement, API's President and CEO Jack Gerard said:

"We welcome the administration's decision because we, like Secretary Ken Salazar, recognize that the Endangered Species Act is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation's carbon emissions. Instead, we need a comprehensive, integrated energy and climate strategy to address this complex, global challenge. This decision serves to protect the polar bear while providing greater regulatory certainty not only to the oil and natural gas industry but also to all U.S. manufacturers."