USA EPA clears way to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

By Rita Jane Gabbett on 12/7/2009
 
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday formally declared greenhouse gasses (GHGs) a threat to public health and the environment, clearing the way for federal regulation whether or not climate change legislation currently being considered in Congress is passed.

EPA also announced it found that greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat.

The agency's endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases, including: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

EPA issued the proposed findings in April 2009 and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments.

These final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

Reactions

The EPA decision was applauded by environmental groups while business groups voiced concern.

"The EPA is moving forward with an agenda that will put additional burdens on manufacturers, cost jobs and drive up the price of energy," said Keith McCoy, vice president of energy and resources policy with the National Association of Manufacturers, in a statement. "By forcing manufacturers to meet unrealistic goals and placing burdensome costs on them, the EPA is hurting America's competitiveness."

McCoy noted today's decision paves the way for the EPA to begin regulating carbon emissions across the board, including large stationary sources such as manufacturing plants, hospitals and libraries under the Clean Air Act.

"This is the most significant step the federal government has taken on global warming. The stage is now set for EPA to hold the biggest global warming polluters accountable," Reuters quoted Emily Figdor, federal global warming program director for Environment America, as saying.