CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear another case over federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, but the narrow question being considered is unlikely to block the Obama administration's effort to curb global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Justices refused to reconsider a 2007 ruling that found greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and must be regulated if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finds them to be a danger to public health and welfare.
The court also declined to examine EPA's 2009 "endangerment" finding and the agency's 2010 rules to require reductions in greenhouse emissions from motor vehicles.
During its new term, the court will consider only a very limited question: Whether EPA's vehicle emissions standards triggered a mandate for stationary industrial sources to obtain permits under other parts of the Clean Air Act.
The case, even if decided in favor of industry groups and state governments that filed the appeals, is unlikely to stop EPA from setting the first-ever greenhouse emissions limits under a different section of the law, experts said.
"It does not signal a substantive attack on EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants," said Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School.
Scientific evidence continues to mount that human activities -- primarily the burning of fossil fuels such as coal -- are altering the planet's climate in potentially dangerous ways.
Late last month, the world's scientists issued their latest report through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They said that warming of the planet is "unequivocal," and that it is "extremely likely" -- a term that means scientists are at least 95 percent certain -- that human activity has been the dominant cause of this warming.
Limiting climate change and its impacts, the IPCC said, "will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."
Many West Virginia political leaders from both parties reject the scientific evidence, and continue to oppose efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.