|EPA Takes First Step Toward Climate Change Regs|
By H. Josef Hebert
April 17, 2009
Obama Tells Congress: Send Me Legislation That Places Market-based Cap on Carbon Pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency concluded
Friday that greenhouse gases linked to climate change "endanger
public health and welfare," setting the stage for regulating them
under federal clean air laws.
The EPA action marks the first step toward imposing limits on
pollution linked to climate change, which would mean tighter rules
for cars and power plants. Agency officials cautioned such
regulations are expected to be part of a lengthy process and not
issued anytime soon.
Limits on carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases would have
widespread economic and social impact, from requiring better fuel
efficiency for automobiles to limiting emissions from power plants
and industrial sources, changing the way the nation produces energy.
In announcing the proposed finding, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
said it "confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem
now and for future generations." She reiterated that the Obama
administration prefers that climate change be address by Congress
through broad, economy-wide limits on climate-changing pollution.
But the EPA finding of endangerment prepares for possible regulatory
action if Congress fails to act.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose Environment and Public Works
Committee is considering climate legislation, said the EPA
finding—stalled by the Bush administration—is long overdue but that
"the best and most flexible way" to deal with the problem is for
Congress to take action on a broader approach.
Friday's action by the EPA triggered a 60-day comment period before
the agency issues a final endangerment ruling.
The agency said in its finding that "in both magnitude and
probability, climate change is an enormous problem" and that carbon
dioxide and five other greenhouse gases "that are responsible for it
endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act."
The EPA concluded that the science pointing to man-made pollution as
a cause of global warming is "compelling and overwhelming." It also
said tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles contribute to climate change.
The EPA action was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling two years ago
that said greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act
and must be regulated if found to be a danger to human health or public welfare.
The Bush administration strongly opposed using the Clean Air Act to
address climate change and stalled on producing the so-called
"endangerment finding" demanded by the high court in its April 2007 ruling.
The court case, brought by Massachusetts, focused only on emissions
from automobiles. But it is widely assumed that if the EPA must
regulate emissions from cars and trucks, it will have no choice but
to control identical pollution from power plants and industrial sources.
Congress is considering imposing an economy-wide cap on greenhouse
gas emissions along with giving industry the ability to trade
emission allowances to mitigate costs. Legislation could be
considered by the House before the August congressional recess.