US states sue EPA to stop greenhouse gas rules
* States want EPA to reopen endangerment hearings
* About as many states support EPA's climate finding
WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - At least 15 U.S. states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to stop it from issuing rules controlling greenhouse gas emissions until it reexamines whether the pollution harms human health.
Florida, Indiana, South Carolina and at least nine other states filed the petitions in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, states said.
They joined petitions filed last month by Virginia, Texas and Alabama.
The Obama administration has long said it would attack greenhouse gas emissions with EPA regulation if Congress failed to pass a climate bill.
The EPA is set to issue regulations later this month that would require autos and light trucks to increase energy efficiency. That would trigger rules on large emitters like power plants requiring them to get permits showing they are using the best technology available to reduce emissions [ID:nN17158103].
The state petitions call for the EPA to reopen hearings on the so-called "endangerment finding" the agency issued last year declaring the emissions dangerous to people.
"If EPA doesn't reopen the hearings we will move forward to try to stop them from regulating greenhouse gases," said Brian Gottstein, an assistant to Virginia's Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli.
The states have complained that the EPA relied too heavily from reports by the U.N.'s climate science panel which included information that exaggerated the melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The EPA said it was confident it would withstand legal challenges on the issue. "The question of the science is settled," spokeswoman Adora Andy said. The science "came from an array of highly respected, peer-reviewed sources from both within the United States and across the globe, and took into consideration hundreds of thousands of comments from members of the public, which were addressed in the finding," she said.
Allison Wood, a lawyer at Hunton & Williams, said the suits could push some lawmakers to support the climate bill if they oppose EPA regulation and the legislation preempts the agency from taking action.
About the same number of states support the EPA. In January, 16 states including New York and California asked the court for permission to support the EPA in industry lawsuits seeking to stop the agency from regulating the gases from stationary sources like power plants and factories.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)