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EPA scores major court victory

This probably won't generate as much attention as it deserves, but a unanimous ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit seems like a pretty big deal.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, throwing out legal challenges by states and industry groups that argued the EPA had exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act by declaring that carbon emissions endanger public health.

The decision is a huge victory for the administration's efforts to address climate change in the face of congressional gridlock on the issue and increasing skepticism among Republicans that climate change is a problem the country needs to address.

As court victories go, this decision doesn't just deal with a critically important issue, it was also a one-sided win for the EPA. State GOP officials and a group of polluters went after every aspect of the EPA's climate policy, and they lost badly.

Fairly early on in the Obama presidency, the administration concluded that carbon emissions endanger public health and welfare -- the "endangerment finding" -- which is a key part of regulating emissions through the Clean Air Act. The plaintiffs said Obama's EPA couldn't do this, and the appeals court disagreed.

And remember the dreaded "tailoring rule"? Republicans and polluters said the EPA couldn't possibly have this kind of authority, but the appeals court rejected this, too.

Philip Bump went through today's decision in some detail, highlighting the key takeaways: "1. The Court determined that the EPA absolutely has authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant.... 2. Even if there were uncertainty about climate science -- the argument advanced by the petitioners -- the entire point of the EPA regulations is to be proactive in addressing problems.... 3. Anyway, the EPA's science on impact is well-reasoned and thorough."

The issue is very likely headed to the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, today hands the Obama administration and those concerned with the climate crisis a big win.