Renowned Climate Scientist James E. Hansen and Other Climate Experts Sue the US Environmental Protection Agency for Failure to Phase Out Climate Pollution
For Immediate Release: Contact Dan Galpern, Counsel to Plaintiffs
Background: On June 16, 2022, five climate experts and two public interest groups filed a far-reaching Petition to EPA to Phase Out GHG Pollution to Restore a Stable and Healthy Climate. The Petition demands the phase out of continuing GHG emissions and removal of a substantial share of legacy GHG emissions.
On September 14, EPA rejected the Petition.
On November 12, 2022, Petitioners sued EPA, seeking judicial action to compel EPA to commence rulemaking under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to phase out deadly climate pollution.
Plaintiffs in the case include renowned Climate Scientist James E. Hansen, former EPA Scientist Donn Viviani, distinguished Atmospheric Scientist John Birks, eminent Climate Accountability Expert Richard Heede, Forensic Psychiatrist and Climate and Mental Health Expert Lise Van Susteren, the New York-based non-profit Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Inc. (CSAC), and the Eugene, Oregon-based public interest group Climate Protection and Restoration (CPR Initiative).
Statements of Plaintiffs
James Hansen, Individual Petitioner, Climate Scientist, CPR Initiative Advisor
“EPA should reconsider its denial, render an “unreasonable risk determination” in response to our Petition, and start a rulemaking under which it should at least impose an across-the-board rising fee on CO2 pollution. Despite hundreds in billions of taxpayer dollars that Congressional Democrats recently allocated to the problem, we still have not adopted the solution economists deem essential to kick-start rapid movement to clean energy. A simple rising carbon fee can be made near-global via border tax adjustments. In contrast, subsidized emission reductions in the US serve to spur additional fossil fuel use elsewhere.
“The Agency’s reasonable use of TSCA to restrict GHG pollution really would shape an enduring legacy for Biden. The future of young people is at stake, and it is well past time we got serious. Remember, the President correctly characterized the climate problem as an existential crisis. The President’s words should matter. EPA needs to act.”
Donn Viviani, Individual Petitioner, former EPA scientist, CPR Initiative Board President
“TSCA is a chemical safety act. Right now, greenhouse gases are the most unsafe chemicals on the planet. TSCA is designed to control chemical risk other authorities can’t. Clearly, theother authorities have failed. I worked at EPA for over 30 years, and it is hard for me to understand why the Agency would need a Petition to regulate these unsafe chemicals. Indeed, it is virtually unbelievable to me that they denied the Petition and require a lawsuit to take action to contend seriously with the worst risk that mankind has ever faced.
“Congress told EPA to control unsafe chemicals, and greenhouse gas pollution is causing an absolutely deadly crisis. Our petition pointed this out and our lawsuit gives the Agency another chance to think it through. Indeed, the lawsuit asks the court the simple question the Agency refused to answer in the petition: Are GHGs an unreasonable risk to the future of our children and their children? It gives EPA a second bite at that apple.
“EPA has already admitted that climate change amounts to an “undeniable, urgent crisis,” but the Agency pretended that they didn’t need to decide if climate risk was unreasonable. It is, and they do, so we need to haul them into court. The climate crisis mounts with each passing day of insufficient action. This may become the most important trial in the history of our nation.”
John Birks, Individual Petitioner, Atmospheric Scientist, CPR Initiative Board Member
“In denying our Petition, the EPA missed out on a great opportunity to make use of existing authority to put us on a path to not only phase out greenhouse gas emissions but also remove the excess burden of legacy emissions. Now, our lawsuit gives them another chance.
“I strongly support the clean energy investments made in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act measures that were supported by President Biden. But, as our attorney Dan Galpern pointed out in a recent post, even if current and projected EPA rules put us on track to meet the Administration’s 2030 GHG reduction target, CO2 and other GHG pollutants will remain at unsustainably-high concentrations in the atmosphere. What is required is a substantial reduction in their concentrations. That requires a rapid phase out of GHG pollution, as well as removal of a substantial amount of the overburden – achievable through rulemaking under TSCA. EPA should reconsider its untenable position and move to settle this lawsuit without further wasting scare resources.”
Richard Heede, Individual Petitioner, Climate Accountability Analyst, CPR Initiative Advisor
“EPA could have taken up the opportunity we presented in our Petition to fill in some of Inflation Reduction Act’s large gaps and offset some of its weaknesses, since the IRA was virtually all carrots and no sticks. Indeed, I wish our expert federal environmental agency would exercise greater leadership on this vital issue, but the law gives the Court specific authority to come to its own conclusion and direct the agency to act. The simple, incontestable fact is that greenhouse gas pollution presents an unreasonable risk to public health and to the environment.
“The Court needs to direct the Agency to do the right thing, without further delay.”
Lise Van Susteren, Individual Petitioner, Forensic Psychiatrist and Climate and Mental Health Expert Lise Van Susteren, CPR Initiative Board Member
“The EPA decision to deny our Petition – the policy equivalent of denying the reality of the climate emergency – was heartbreaking. As a mental health professional, I am acutely aware of what happens when we ignore or downplay the consequences of self-destructive behavior – as we are doing here with respect to the climate crisis. In my work with young people, particularly, I know of the depth of their anguish, anger, and fear that our government, and the institutions upon which we all count to survive, are leaving opportunities on the table that would stem the rising danger.
“Climate instability is exacting not only a physical toll, but an emotional toll: for as bad as the storms are outside, the storms inside will be even worse. There is still time, but not much, to redress the injustices, to be honest about what needs to be done and to have the courage to do it. Young people, especially, are counting on us to put politics aside to make their safety the priority. Conscience and circumstances have called upon us now to take the fight for justice, and life, to the courts.”
Dan Galpern, Attorney for Plaintiffs and Executive Director of CPR Initiative (CPRclimate.org)
“We bring this lawsuit as federal agencies are rolling out a multi-faceted effort to repair the nation’s aging infrastructure, invest in communities, and provide critical relief to low-income Americans by cutting prescription drug costs, expanding health insurance, lowering energy costs, and investing in clean energy and carbon removal.
“And yet, in terms of effectively addressing the climate crisis, these efforts, however overdue, remain hopelessly inadequate. Not only do they fail to ensure the necessary phase out of GHG pollution but, perhaps most shockingly, they do not even impose a rising fee on carbon pollution.
“An objective observer, surveying the relentless damage we continue to visit on young people and future generations, might be forgiven for crying out: ‘There ought to be a law.’
“But, in fact, there is a law – one precisely fit for the purpose – and our June 2022 Citizens’ Petition was based on it. Indeed, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) actually requires EPA to impose restrictions upon major sources to abate such unreasonable risks. What is required, then, is enforcement of the law.
“Here, as President Biden has observed, repeatedly, we confront ‘an existential threat.’ Our lawsuit urges the Agency to confront that threat directly, rather than to pursue half-measures and issue banal, data-free assertions that all will be well. EPA had the chance, and the door remains open for the Agency to do the right thing. But the law and the climate crisis compel us now to take EPA to court.
“At this late stage, emissions-phaseout delay is climate-justice denied.”