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Washington Environmental Council v. Bellon

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20231
Nos. 12-35323 et al, (9th Cir., 10/17/2013)

The Ninth Circuit held that environmental groups lacked standing to compel the Washington State Department of Ecology and other regional agencies to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the state's five oil refineries under the CAA. The groups claimed that the agencies failed to define emission limits—reasonably available control technology—for greenhouse gases and to apply those limits to the oil refineries in violation of the state's SIP. But the groups failed to satisfy the causality and redressability requirements for standing. The chain of causality between the agencies' alleged misconduct and the groups' specific, localized injuries is too attenuated. Although the court assumed without deciding that man-made sources of greenhouse gas emissions are causally linked to global warming and climate change, the groups' causal chain lacks any plausible scientific or other evidentiary basis that the refineries' emissions are the source of the groups' injuries. While the groups need not connect each molecule to their injuries, simply saying that the agencies have failed to curb emission of greenhouse gases, which contribute (in some undefined way and to some undefined degree) to their injuries, is insufficient to support standing. Nor did the groups show that their injuries would be redressed by a court order requiring the agencies to control greenhouse gas emissions from the oil refineries.