EPA Issues Verdict on Greenhouse Gases

Climate-change fighters can now tuck the Clean Air Act into their tool belts

On the opening Monday of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, the U.S. Environ­mental Protection Agency finalized its finding that greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations, setting the stage for regulating greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. "This is the most significant step the federal government has taken on global warming," commented Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. "The Clean Air Act ... has a nearly 40-year track record of cost-effectively cutting dangerous pollution to protect our health and environment." In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to issue a finding, but the Bush White House quashed its release. Only after President Obama appointed new EPA head administrator Lisa Jackson was the finding resurrected. As drafted, the EPA ruling would apply only to the 10,000 or so facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually; altogether they emit about 85% of the nation's greenhouse gases. Collection of emissions data would begin Jan. 1, 2010. The EPA's "endangerment finding" might eventually make congressional Republicans more likely to support a climate bill – allowing Congress, rather than the EPA, to set the rules for emissions.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gases Clean Air Act, Luke Metzger, Lisa Jackson

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