The battle over global warming escalated this week with the Environmental Protection Agency issuing its first rules ever on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions even as more states lined up to legally challenge the new regulations.
On Thursday, the heads of the Transportation Department and the EPA signed final rules setting fuel efficiency standards for model years 2012-2016, with a goal of achieving by 2016 the equivalent of 35.5 miles per gallon combined for cars and trucks, an increase of nearly 10 mpg over current standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The rules come after 12 states joined petitions filed by Virginia, Alabama and Texas against the EPA for ruling in December that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide endanger human health -- a ruling that cleared the path for the agency to start issuing mandatory regulations to reduce them.
"While we made the decision to intervene based on what was in the best interests of Virginia and her citizens, it is gratifying to have the support of so many other states," Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli said recently in a written statement.
The lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to reopen hearings on its December finding or block the regulations.
The states argue that the EPA's finding depends on faulty data from the U.N.'s climate science panel, which included information that overstated the melting of Himalayan glaciers.
"The original proponents of man-made global warming now admit that there is no scientific evidence that the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035, or that the seas are rising due to warming, or that African agriculture will collapse by 2020 – all predictions that have formed the central narrative for climate action," Cuccinelli said.
The EPA has responded to the lawsuits with a statement saying the "evidence of and threats posed by a changing climate are right before our eyes."
"EPA is proceeding with common sense measures that are helping to protect Americans from this threat while moving America into a leadership position in the 21st century green economy," the statement read. "Unfortunately, special interest and other defenders of the status quo are now turning to the courts in an attempt to stall progress.
"EPA is confident the finding will withstand legal challenge, allowing the agency to protect the American people from the significant dangers posed by greenhouse gases and carbon pollution."
The 12 states that joined the lawsuit are: Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.
But others states are fighting back on behalf of the EPA, saying without regulations, climate change will adversely affect them.
Those states are: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Most of these states sued the EPA during the Bush administration over its decision not to regulate carbon dioxide pollution as a contributor to global warming.
The White House would prefer for Congress to legislate climate change. The House narrowly passed a cap-and-trade bill in June that would allow industry to buy and trade pollution permits, but it has stalled in the Senate.