October 9, 2018 / 1:54 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. top court rebuffs appeal of Kavanaugh ruling nixing climate rule

(Adds background on case, confirmation process)

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned aside appeals of a 2017 lower court ruling by its newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, that struck down an environmental rule imposed under former President Barack Obama regulating a potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change.

The appeals had been brought by an environmental group and companies that supported the 2015 rule that had limited hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in a variety of products including spray cans and air conditioners.

The ruling authored by Kavanaugh, confirmed by the Senate on Saturday after a contentious political battle, was made by a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the court on which he formerly served. The 2-1 ruling threw out the rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during Obama's presidency.

Tuesday marks Kavanaugh's first day on the court.

The Senate backed President Donald Trump's nominee 50-48 after a contentious confirmation process during which Kavanaugh denied allegations of sexual misconduct decades dating from the 1980s.

Kavanaugh has a long history of skepticism toward environmental regulations, especially those concerning air pollution.

"However much we might sympathize or agree with EPA's policy objectives, EPA may act only within the boundaries of its statutory authority," Kavanaugh wrote in the ruling.

If the high court had agreed to hear the case, Kavanaugh would not have participated. The decision not to hear the case was made privately by the justices before Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate.

The court rejected two separate appeals, one by the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group and another by companies that supported the regulation, including Honeywell International Inc. Manufacturers including Mexichem Fluor Inc, a unit of Mexichem SAB de CV, and Arkema Inc, part of Arkema SA, also were part of the coalition that challenged the regulation.

The Trump administration had urged the high court not to take the case because the EPA currently is reconsidering the regulation and agrees with Kavanaugh's interpretation of the law.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

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