In this file photo, exhaust rises from smokestacks in front...

In this file photo, exhaust rises from smokestacks in front of piles of coal at NRG Energy's W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station in Thompsons, Texas. (2011) Credit: AP

Now that a federal appeals court in Washington has essentially agreed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that six greenhouse gases endanger the health and welfare of humans, the way is clear for the agency to do what Congress has refused to do: find ways to cut emissions of the gases that are causing climate change.

Here’s the background on the unanimous ruling Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia: In a 2007 case called Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court found that these gases fit into the Clean Air Act’s definition of pollutants. Then the EPA launched a scientific study to determine if they did, indeed, pose a danger. The agency announced its endangerment finding near the end of 2009. That finding, plus other EPA actions on greenhouse gases,  triggered the lawsuits.

Not surprisingly, the National Association of Manufacturers was not pleased. “By moving forward, the EPA is adding to the mounting uncertainty facing manufacturers of all sizes,” the association said. “We will be considering all of our legal options when it comes to halting these devastating regulations.”

Actually, their legal options are not great. The association will have a tough time getting the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a unanimous ruling out by the D.C. Circuit in the matter of government regulations, in which that circuit specializes. Then there’s the little matter of Massachusetts v. EPA, which gave the agency the go-ahead to study the science and make a finding.

As to the manufacturers’ desire for less uncertainty, welcome to the club. We all crave more certainty in life, but it’s tough to come by. Here’s one piece of certainty, though: This ruling gives EPA the full power to regulate greenhouse gases. The only way the association can escape letting unelected regulators do the work is to persuade Congress to take broad action on climate change. They should put their lobbying muscle and money into that uphill slog. It’s either that, or let the regulators do it.

Pictured Above: Exhaust rises from smokestacks in front of piles of coal at NRG Energy's W.A. Parish Electric Generating Station in Thompsons, Texas.

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