WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare. It is the first step to regulating pollution linked to climate change.
Congressional sources told The Associated Press that EPA will announce its proposed finding Friday and begin a comment period before issuing a final ruling. The EPA also will say tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles contribute to climate change. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the finding hasn't been announced.
HuffPost Green blogger Bruce Nilles writes that the consequences of the public welfare determination are far-reaching:
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is now obligated to issue rules regulating global warming pollution from all major sources, including cars and coal-fired power plants. The law specifically states that EPA "shall" (i.e. must, not may) regulate dangerous pollutants once they are found to endanger public health or welfare.
This endangerment decision, ordered by the Supreme Court in April 2007 and based upon years of scientific research and analysis, will speed the shift toward the clean energy economy and complement the other elements of President Obama's sweeping clean energy jobs plan.
The Washington Post reports that this would be a momentous change in government policy:
Former President George W. Bush and his deputies opposed putting mandatory limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for years on the grounds that it would harm the economy; Congress is considering legislation that would do so but it remains unclear whether it can pass the proposal and enact it into law in the near future.
The proposal and subsequent regulation could cause precipitous change to climate legislation in the country. The New York Times reports on possible Congressional action:
The United States has come under fierce international criticism for trailing other industrialized nations in moving to regulate carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants. With this move, and the parallel action by Congress toward a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, the American government can now point to concrete progress as nations begin to write a new international climate change treaty.
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.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement supporting the EPA decision:
"For too many years under President Bush, the EPA ignored the science of global warming and had to be forced by the Supreme Court to consider taking action. The Obama Administration, basing its decision on sound science, has declared that global warming pollution and its potentially catastrophic consequences harm our public health and welfare.
"The Congress is working on a comprehensive solution to global warming, and I am committed to moving clean energy legislation this year that will include perspectives from across our nation to create jobs, improve our national security, and reduce global warming."
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.