US EPA declares CO2 a public health danger

17 April 2009 18:18  [Source: ICIS news]

EPA chief Jackson says US to regulate CO2WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US on Friday declared that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) pose a danger to public health and are “very likely” the cause of global warming and must be regulated.

The long-anticipated announcement of this “endangerment finding” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was immediately criticised by the US petrochemical and refining industries and the leading US Senate opponent of global warming theories.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement accompanying the agency’s formal announcement that “This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations”.

Citing the agency’s formal “Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings,” Jackson said that “The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate”.

Jackson said that EPA’s action was in keeping with the April 2007 ruling by the US Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA that the agency does have regulatory authority over CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

She noted, however, that the endangerment finding issued by the agency on Friday is a proposal and will be subject to a 60-day public comment period and two public hearings to be held in Arlington, Virginia, and Seattle, Washington, next month.

Jackson also noted in particular that “today’s proposed finding does not include any proposed regulations”, and she indicated that both she and President Barack Obama would prefer that Congress pass broad legislation to regulate greenhouse gases.

“Notwithstanding this required regulatory process,” EPA said, referring to the proposed finding and public comment period, “both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy.”

The proposed EPA endangerment finding was immediately challenged by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), which said that while the agency’s action was expected, the association was surprised that EPA has “willingness to proceed without having addressed all of the valid concerns previously raised by stakeholders and consumers”.

NPRA president Charlie Drevna said that the association has “concerns with the models used by the agency as well as its acknowledged lack of ability to characterise climate change effects on health or welfare”.

Drevna warned that EPA regulation of greenhouse gases “would have an enormous impact on every facet of the economy, businesses large and small, as well as on the general population”.

He urged that “Before going forward with regulation, the US must ensure that other major global contributors are similarly committed to reducing their ambient greenhouse gas concentrations”.

US efforts would be for naught if the administration fails to receive such commitments and American competitiveness would be compromised,” Drevna said.

Senator James Inhofe (Republican-Oklahoma), the leading congressional opponent on global warming issues, said EPA’s proposed finding “will unleash a torrent of regulations that will destroy jobs, harm consumers and extend the agency’s reach into every corner of American life”.

“Despite enormous expense and hardship for the American economy, these regulations will have virtually no effect on climate change,” Inhofe said, predicting that the EPA action will lead only to “an economic train wreck and a glorious mess”.

Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also challenged Jackson’s appeal to Congress for comprehensive climate change legislation instead of EPA’s administrative action under the Clean Air Act and the Supreme Court ruling.

“The solution to this glorious mess is not for Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, which replaces one very bad approach with another,” Inhofe said.  “Congress should pass a simple, narrowly-targeted bill that stops EPA in its tracks.”

Full details on the EPA’s proposed finding, requirements for public comment and locations for the two public hearings are available at a special agency Web site.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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