Jackson Says GHG Rules Will be Issued under CAA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed finding of endangerment from greenhouse gases (GHGs) released in April became final today despite efforts to delay the action.

Citing "decades of sound, peer-reviewed, extensively evaluated scientific data … from around the world and from our own U.S. scientists," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson enumerated several examples of evidence of climate change:

  • polar ice caps crumbling into the oceans,
  • changing migratory patterns of animals,
  • broader ranges for deadly diseases,
  • historic droughts,
  • more powerful storms, and
  • disappearing coastlines.

Specifically, Jackson found that current and projected concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations and that the combined emissions of these well-mixed GHGs from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the GHG pollution that threatens public health and welfare. 

The findings are a long-awaited response to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the Court found that GHGs are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act. The Court ordered EPA to determine whether GHG emissions from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution that may be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare or whether the science was too uncertain to make a reasoned decision. The Court decision resulted from a petition for rulemaking filed by more than a dozen environmental, renewable energy, and other organizations.

"Today, I’m proud to announce that EPA has finalized its endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution and is now authorized and obligated to take reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse pollutants under the Clean Air Act," Jackson said.

Those efforts already are in motion. Earlier this year, the agency established a nationwide GHG emissions reporting system and recently proposed a program that will limit GHG emissions from American vehicles. In January, EPA will begin working with large GHG emitting facilities to monitor their emissions and by "next spring, [they] will be required to incorporate the best available methods for controlling greenhouse gas emissions when they plan to construct or expand," Jackson said. By 2011, facilities emitting more than 250,000 tons per year carbon dioxide equivalent will have to submit publicly available information for tracking emissions over time, she added.

"Legislation is the best way to address climate pollution economy-wide," Jackson said, emphasizing that EPA's climate change action and congressional lawmaking are not either-or propositions. A new law would give businesses certainty that their investments will be profitable, she added. "The Clean Air Act can complement congressional legislation."

Opposition to the Finding
In a letter dated Dec. 2, four Republican lawmakers (Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.; and David Vitter, R-La.) asked Jackson to investigate the questions raised by the disclosure of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia to ensure that the science underlying the endangerment finding had not been compromised.

Similarly, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) expressed its disapproval by sending an emergency petition to EPA, demanding the agency stop its plan to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. CEI is a public interest group dedicated to free enterprise and limited government.

When a reporter addressed this issue at today's press conference, Jackson said that there was "nothing" in the hacked e-mails that affected the science on which the finding was based. The data at issue were "one tiny thread" in the "overwhelming amount of scientific study" that supports the findings.

Americans for Prosperity has been campaigning against the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant for some time. According to its Web site, "Once this 'endangerment finding' has been reached, the EPA will be empowered to advance carbon dioxide regulations to their heart's content. But even if they wanted to take the severe economic impact of this proposal into account, they can't. Once the endangerment finding is final, they would be compelled to work aggressively to eliminate it across the economy."

Just hours after the press conference, CEI released a report saying it will file suit in federal court to overturn the endangerment finding on the grounds that EPA has ignored major scientific issues, including those raised recently in the hacked emails fraud scandal.

“EPA is clinging for dear life to the notion that the global climate models are holding up,” said Sam Kazman, CEI General Counsel. “In reality, those models are about to sink under the growing weight of evidence that they are fabrications.”

About the Author

L.K. Williams is the Environmental Group Editor of 1105 Media.

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