(Bloomberg News) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was "unambiguously correct" in moving to set limits on industrial and automotive emissions of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, a federal appeals court said.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled today that the EPA properly concluded that greenhouse gases are pollutants that endanger human health and that opponents don't have the legal right to challenge rules determining when states and industries must comply with regulations curtailing their use.

"Today's ruling is a setback for businesses facing damaging regulations from the EPA," Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement. "The EPA's decision to move forward with these regulations is one of the most costly, complex and burdensome regulations facing manufacturers. These regulations will harm their ability to hire, invest and grow."

Companies such as Massey Energy Co., business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and states led by Texas and Virginia sought to stop the agency through more than 60 lawsuits. Some argued that the EPA relied on biased data from outside scientists. Automakers intervened in the lawsuit in support of the new standards.

Supreme Court

Opponents said they're considering whether to ask the full appeals court to hear the case or to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Shannon Goessling, executive director and chief legal counsel at the Southeastern Legal Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that sued the EPA on behalf of companies and lawmakers.

"This case is equaled only to the Obamacare case in terms of its effect on the citizens, the industries and the economy in the United States," Goessling said in a telephone interview.

In today's ruling, the judges said the EPA had "substantial record evidence" that greenhouse gases probably caused the climate to warm over the past several decades, according to the ruling.

"In the end, petitioners are asking us to re-weigh the scientific evidence before EPA and reach our own conclusion," the panel wrote in the 82-page opinion. "This is not our role."

Endangerment Finding

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had authority to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane under the Clean Air Act if the agency declared them a public danger. The EPA issued an endangerment finding in December 2009, clearing the way for regulation of emissions from power plants, factories and other sources linked to global climate change.