The EPA endangerment finding on CO2

2009-04-19

in Law, Politics, The environment

Wooden sculpture detail - Twist 1.5, Ottawa

Some very encouraging things are happening over at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In response to a Supreme Court decision, they have issued an endangerment finding – paving the way to regulation. According to analysis on Grist, automobiles are likely to be the first sector targeted, though they represent only 20% of emissions. Later possible targets include coal power plants, which generate 40% of American greenhouse gasses.

In addition to prompting regulation, the finding may drive action in Congress, since legislators will likely prefer designing a greenhouse gas mitigation system themselves, rather than leaving it to the EPA. As such, this raises hopes of the United States passing a cap-and-trade bill sometime this year – the first absolute necessity in kicking off the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The Grist analysis above is well worth reading, as it is quite comprehensive. Along with Obama’s new commitment to high speed rail, this justifies considerable optimism about changes in American climate policy. That, in turn, might go a long way towards making the international negotiations in Copenhagen this December more successful.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. April 20, 2009 at 10:26 am

With luck, this will give the US Congress the shove it needs to create a cap-and-trade scheme with 100% auctioning. We can then wait for them to force Canada into it, through trade restrictions.

. April 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

EPA’s climate finding ticks off industry, energizes enviros and congressional leaders

Greenpeace, on the other hand, isn’t ready to break out the champagne and party hats. It’s gloomier take on the EPA’s finding begins “It’s about time,” and continues:

“Today’s announcement is also a testament to the success of industry in delaying real action to stop climate change. It took eleven states, ten years, two IPCC reports, two changes of presidency and one Supreme Court decision to reach the obvious conclusion that global warming endangers human health and welfare and EPA has a duty to do something about it.

There is a clear lesson here for both the Administration and Congress as they craft a global warming bill this year: industry will exploit every ambiguity, every gap and every loophole in legislation to avoid real climate action as much and as long as possible. Fuzzy wording and big exemptions inserted to buy off industry support for a bill could delay real emission reductions for years or decades. The planet cannot afford that.”

. July 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

The dangerous myth that the EPA’s endangerment finding can stop dangerous warming

Posted 3:14 PM on 21 Jul 2009
by Joseph Romm

Over and over again, in e-mails and comments and blog posts, I hear some enviros saying that it doesn’t matter if Waxman-Markey fails, since EPA can use the endangerment finding to regulate CO2 as well or better. That dangerously mistaken view would appear to be creating a dangerous apathy among many progressives and environmentalists, as I’ll discuss shortly.

. December 7, 2009 at 3:49 pm

US climate agency declares CO2 public danger

Environmental Protection Agency declaration allows it to impose emissions cuts without agreement of reluctant Senate

The Obama administration adopted its climate change plan B today, formally declaring carbon dioxide a public danger so that it can cut greenhouse gas emissions even without the agreement of a reluctant Senate.

The timing of the announcement – in the opening hours of the UN’s Copenhagen climate change summit – prevents Barack Obama from arriving at the talks without concrete evidence that America will do its bit to cut the emissions that cause global warming.

“Climate change has now become a household issue,” said Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adding that the evidence of climate change was real and increasingly alarming. “This administration will not ignore science or the law any longer, nor will we ignore the responsibility we owe to our children and our grandchildren.”

The announcement gives the EPA a legal basis for capping emissions from major sources such as coal power plants, as well as cars. Jackson said she hoped it would help to spur a deal in Copenhagen.

. December 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm

The EPA Endangerment Finding

The basis for this decision is given in three sets of documents: the findings themselves; a technical support document (TSD); and eleven volumes of comments (the list is here). I’m going to go through the first of these, a 284 page document, and pull out paragraphs that I have found of interest.

. June 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm

“The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a global warming lawsuit against five big power companies, its most important environmental ruling since 2007 and a victory for the utilities and the Obama administration. The justices unanimously overturned a ruling by a US appeals court that the lawsuit now involving six states can proceed in an effort to force the coal-burning plants to cut emissions of gases that contribute to climate change. In a defeat for environmentalists, the Supreme Court agreed with the companies that regulating greenhouse gases should be left to the Environmental Protection Agency under the clean air laws. The ruling stemmed from a 2004 lawsuit claiming the five electric utilities have created a public nuisance by contributing to climate change. The lawsuit wanted a federal judge to order them to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.”

. July 3, 2011 at 10:29 am

Environmentalism under fire
Soaring emissions
The rhetoric about environmental controls killing jobs is getting louder and louder

Jun 2nd 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition

ISN’T it odd, asks Henry Waxman, a Democratic congressman from California, how the same Republicans who make such a fuss about abortion do not seem to care if the unborn are poisoned by toxic chemicals such as mercury? Isn’t it strange, Republicans retort, that people like Mr Waxman, who profess to care about working Americans, cheer on bureaucrats determined to smother business and destroy jobs? It may be hard to discern amid the melodramatic rhetoric, but the two sides are talking about the Environmental Protection Agency, and the various new rules it has in the works to curb pollution. Besides the endless toing and froing about government spending, it has become the most fiercely debated topic in Congress.

As soon as they took control of the House of Representatives in January, Republicans began summoning Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, and several of her underlings to answer questions about their job-killing ways. Fred Upton, the head of the committee responsible for energy and environmental regulation, joked that she would be on Capitol Hill so often she would need her own parking space.

The Republicans’ chief concern is the EPA’s authority, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2007, to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. But more broadly they worry that the EPA is constantly tightening restrictions on pollution, at ever higher cost to business but with diminishing returns in terms of public health. They point to a slew of new rules about industrial boilers, cooling water at power plants, the disposal of coal ash, and emissions of mercury, ozone and other chemicals from smokestacks, which cumulatively, they say, will have a crippling effect on power generation and other industries. “Even God,” says Joe Barton, a Republican congressman, “couldn’t meet some of the ozone standards.”

Mr Barton is among the many Republicans in Congress who question whether global warming is caused by human activity, let alone whether the EPA should be trying to mitigate it by limiting emissions of greenhouse gases. The House has passed a measure that would rescind the EPA’s authority to do so, although it was blocked in the Senate, which the Democrats still control. The Republican leadership in the House has accused the administration of plotting to raise the price of energy through onerous regulation, in an effort to promote otherwise uncompetitive green technologies. It wants the EPA to give more weight to the impact on the economy and jobs when drawing up future rules.

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