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Challenge to clean air rules dismissed

WASHINGTON -- A federal court Tuesday tossed out a challenge to the nation’s first rules limiting greenhouse gases, which the agency adopted as a result of a lawsuit by 12 states including Massachusetts.

The US Supreme Court in 2007 ruled in support of the states’ contention that the Environmental Protection Agency, then under direction of the Bush administration, had failed its duty by not offering a “reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change.”

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The ruling spawned new rules, including a sweeping pronouncement that greenhouse gases endanger public health. They target emissions from autos and from large factories and power plants.

Several states, led by Texas, and industry groups challenged the rules, saying that the EPA, under the Obama administration, had inadequately considered the benefits of activities that produce carbon emissions and that the new rules failed to set objective standards to determine what levels of emissions endanger the public welfare.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit used its ruling Tuesday to reject four different challenges to the new rules, saying the EPA was relying on clear science and wholly under its authority to draft and enact those rules under the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Today’s ruling is a grand slam for the EPA and the health of the American people, and another strike out for the fossil fuel special interests trying to block clean energy progress,” said Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat who is the ranking member on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The DC Appeals Court now joins the Supreme Court in saying that climate science is sound and the EPA has the authority to regulate dangerous heat-trapping emissions under the Clean Air Act,” he said.

Massachusetts, along with 11 other states, took on the EPA in 2005 to force the agency to take action against carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. The US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled against the states. The states then appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of the Massachusetts and its partner states.

Efforts led by Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts to create a bipartisan bill laying out the nation’s policy on global warming failed in 2010.

The issue has been contentious on the presidential campaign trail as well. Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, contends the EPA should not be in the business of regulating carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases.

Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at Follow him on twitter @GlobeCalvan.
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