EPA Moves on Greenhouse Gases

By Stormy

Big changes in the economy begin to take shape.

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 and three other greenhouse gases. Ironically, Massachusetts and eleven other states initiated the court hearing, claiming that global climate change was adversely affecting them. For an overview of the ruling, see here. For the actual ruling, see here.

On April 17, 2009, the EPA presented findings that

atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.

the Administrator is proposing to define the “air pollution” referred to in section 202(a) of the CAA to be the mix of six key directly emitted and long-lived greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). It is the Administrator’s judgment that the total body of scientific evidence compellingly supports a positive
endangerment finding for both public health and welfare.

Interestingly enough, the EPA has expanded the number of greenhouse gases from 3 to 6.

The findings do not automatically entail enforcement, although they might. If they do, then enforcement will initiate sweeping changes in transportation and energy production. For an example of one alarmed sector, the automotive industry, see here.

Curiously, the Bush EPA argued that the Clean Air Act did not give it the authority to regulate emissions. The court found otherwise. Indeed, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA had the duty of protecting health and safety of U.S. citizens.

The Court found EPA’s argument that regulating emissions from the transportation sector “might hamper the President’s ability to persuade key developing nations to reduce emissions” to be insufficient. Rather, according to the Court, “A reduction in domestic emissions would slow the pace of global emissions increases, no matter what happens elsewhere.” Further, the Court ruled that “under the Act’s clear terms, EPA can avoid promulgating regulations only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do.” Finally, the Court found unreasonable EPA’s argument that regulation of CO2 in the transportation sector would not make significant reductions in emissions, noting that although enforcing regulations may not by itself reverse global warming, it is the duty of EPA to take such a step in order to “slow or reduce” global warming.

The battle over pollution and global warming has been joined. For me, we have no option but to begin the hard task of refashioning our economy. Those who have stalled and procrastinated, those whose profit margins are now on the line, and those who have refused to move forward, must now face not only hard facts but also perhaps an administration’s willingness to do something.
Congress could, of course, redefine the Clean Air Act, section 202(a). How fast we proceed will be the question.