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EPA: Greenhouse Gases Endanger Human Health

December 7, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency has
concluded greenhouse gases are endangering people's health and must
be regulated, signaling that the Obama administration is prepared
to contain global warming without congressional action if
necessary.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson scheduled a news conference for
later Monday to announce the so-called endangerment finding,
officials told The Associated Press, speaking privately because the
announcement had not been made.

The finding is timed to boost the administration's arguments at
an international climate conference - beginning this week - that
the United States is aggressively taking actions to combat global
warming, even though Congress has yet to act on climate
legislation.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding
is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other
greenhouse gases released from power plants, factories and
automobiles under the federal Clean Air Act.

The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view
heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare
and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The
action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had
declined to aggressively pursue the issue.

Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global
warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any
such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal
fights.

The EPA and the White House have said regulations on greenhouse
gases will not be imminent even after an endangerment finding,
saying that the administration would prefer that Congress act to
limit such pollution through an economy-wide cap on carbon dioxide
and other greenhouse gases.

Nevertheless, the EPA has begun the early stages of developing
permit requirements on carbon dioxide pollution from large emitters
such as power plants. The administration also has said it will
require automobile fuel economy to increase to a fleet average of
35 miles per gallon by 2016, another push to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions.

The EPA's readiness to tackle climate change is expected to give
a boost to U.S. arguments at the climate conference opening in
Copenhagen this week that the United States is making broad
commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

While the House has approved climate legislation that would cut
emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and about 80 percent by
mid-century, the Senate has yet to take up the measure amid strong
Republican opposition and reluctance by some centrist Democrats.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., lead author of the Senate bill, has
argued that if Congress doesn't act, the EPA will require
greenhouse gas emissions. He has called EPA regulation a "blunt
instrument" that would pose a bigger problem for industry than
legislation crafted to mitigate some of the costs of shifting away
from carbon emitting fossil fuels.

The way was opened for the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to cut
climate-changing emissions by the Supreme Court in 2007, when the
court declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are
pollutants under the Act. But the court said the EPA must determine
if these pollutants pose a danger to public health and welfare
before it can regulate them.


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