National Resource Defense Council v. Wheeler
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 11 states and the District of Columbia challenged a decision by the Trump administration to rollback HFC regulations under the Clean Air Act.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs had standing and vacated the Trump administrations rollback.
In 2015, the EPA finalized a rule prohibiting or restricting several uses of HFC's, a category of potent greenhouse gases, under the authority of the Clean Air Act. In 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court invalidated part of the rule, however, the Trump administration turned that ruling into a complete rollback of the rule. The NRDC challenged the rollback, contesting that it was arbitrary and capricious and that it had been done without public comment.
Relevant Law and Principles
- Clean Air Act
In a split decision, the court ruled that the plaintiffs had standing and vacated the Trump administration's regulatory rollback of HFC's.
The case established an important precedent that individual plaintiffs have standing to sue based on impacts they have suffered as a result of global climate change. The court's decision regarding standing was stated straightforwardly, "the [change] will lead to an increase in HFC emissions, which will in turn lead to an increase in climate change, which will threaten petitioners’ coastal property." Since the court could undo the regulatory challenge, it reasoned that the petitioners had not only established injury and causation, but also that the court was empowered to redress their injury.
- Nat. Res. Def. Council v. Wheeler, 955 F.3d 68, 76 (D.C. Cir. 2020)
- Global Climate Litigation Report: 2020 Status Review. United Nations Environmental Programme. Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.