New US environment chief targets climate change

23 January 2009 20:24  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The new US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief said on Friday that she will move quickly to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and will help Congress craft strong climate change legislation.

Lisa Jackson, newly approved by the US Senate as EPA administrator, also said in a note to agency employees that she will give priority attention to revise and strengthen the principal US chemicals control statute, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“With his election and with my appointment, President Obama has dramatically changed the face of American environmentalism,” Jackson told EPA staff in a memo.

“With your help, we can now change the face of the environment as well,” she said.

Jackson said that among her top personal priorities as administrator is reducing US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The president has pledged to make responding to the threat of climate change a high priority of his administration,” she noted.

“EPA will stand ready to help Congress craft strong, science-based climate legislation that fulfils the vision of the president,” she said.

While Congress works toward a comprehensive climate change bill, Jackson said EPA will move independently “to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision recognising EPA’s obligation to address climate change under the Clean Air Act”.

Jackson was referring to a major decision by the US high court in April 2007, holding that EPA has full authority - and an obligation - under the existing Clean Air Act to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

That decision was broadly criticised by the US chemicals sector and other manufacturing and commercial industries.

On revising TSCA, Jackson said that “more than 30 years after Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act, it is clear that we are not doing an adequate job of assessing and managing the risks of chemicals in consumer products, the workplace and the environment”.

“It is now time to revise and strengthen EPA’s chemicals management and risk assessment programmes,” she said.

Chemical industry officials have expressed concern that a drastic revision of TSCA could result in US version of the EU’s controversial programme for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH).

Jackson also promised top priority attention by her office to improving air and water quality and “to accelerate the pace of cleanup at the hundreds of contaminated hazardous waste sites across the country”.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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