Leaked Memo: EPA Planning Historic Action on Global Warming in April
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The news from Greenwire today is excellent and unprecedented -- a leaked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document shows that the agency "is fast-tracking its response to the Supreme Court's 2007 climate decision with plans to issue a mid-April finding that global warming threatens both public health and welfare." (Greenwire article is here)
This is very big, very historic, very exciting news -- this action by EPA will set the stage for the first-ever national regulation of CO2 in US history. This so-called endangerment finding is the first step the Obama administration must take to start regulating global warming pollution from cars, coal plants, and other sources. Once again, it is clear that the Obama Administration is serious about fighting global warming.
EPA is planning to issue the endangerment finding on April 16, followed by a 60-day public comment period and two public hearings. When that happens, the EPA will need to hear from you, and everyone you know who cares about global warming, so stay tuned to this blog for further updates.
These regulations will spell trouble for coal-fired power plants, which currently emit more than 30% of our nation's global warming pollution. It also paves the way for the EPA to grant a waiver allowing California and more than a dozen other states to set landmark global warming emissions limits for vehicles.
This action was set in motion by an April 2, 2007, Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which found that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Court decision ordered EPA to determine whether CO2 endangered public health or welfare, and, if so, to begin regulating CO2.
The Bush administration unlawfully ignored the decision for nearly two years, continuing its long campaign of denial, obfuscation, and foot-dragging on global warming and other key environmental issues. The information revealed today sends a clear signal to new coal plant developers that the foot-dragging is over and that they will soon be held responsible for their global warming emissions. With carbon capture and storage technology still years away (if it's possible at all), coal plants are becoming an increasingly risky and poor investment.
Today's document leak also comes on the heels of the EPA also announcing the first comprehensive national system for reporting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by major sources in the United States.
From the EPA news release:
"The new reporting requirements would apply to suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, as well as large direct emitters of greenhouse gases with emissions equal to or greater than a threshold of 25,000 metric tons per year….The vast majority of small businesses would not be required to report their emissions because their emissions fall well below the threshold."
This clarification from the EPA rules out a commonly made argument from foes of carbon limits, who say any carbon requirements will hurt small businesses other small organizations with their own facilities.
It's clear that the administration understands the urgency to act on global warming and the sweet spot of solutions that can not only help our climate, but can also help our economy recover. Consistent with President Obama's economic recovery plan, today's revelations take America one step closer to a future powered by green energy and green jobs. Stay tuned to this blog for opportunities to comment on the endangerment finding later this spring.
Bruce Nilles is the director of the Sierra Club's Move Beyond Coal campaign.