The Environmental Protection Agency, with approval from President Barack Obama, has ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers human health or welfare under the Clean Air Act and, therefore, must be regulated. Environmentalists hope the government will tackle the pollutant with new legislation or regulation by EPA; but many experts don't expect EPA to ever slap restrictions on emitters.
That's because they see the move mostly as a pressuring tactic because Congress is expected to claim jurisdiction for regulating CO2 with a national emissions cap, not regulations, as part of any comprehensive climate package. But for the time being, the threat of Obama placing emissions regulations on power plants or refineries that spew CO2 into the atmosphere may be enough to put new pressure on Congress to set up a cap-and-trade system, pushing industries to make concessions at the bargaining table on Capitol Hill.
The announcement kicks off a multiyear process of public comment, review, and, likely, lawsuits. Details from EPA after the jump.
From a fact sheet on the proposal:
What was the Administrator’s rationale for issuing this Proposal?
With this proposal, the Administrator is responding to the April 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision, in which the court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The Court held that the Administrator must determine whether or not emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare, or whether the science is too uncertain to make a reasoned decision.
It is the Administrator’s judgment that the total body of scientific evidence compellingly supports her proposal that greenhouse gases threaten both public health and welfare. The Administrator reached this conclusion after considering both current and projected future effects of climate change and after considering the full range of risks and impacts to public health and welfare occurring within the United States. The Administrator believes that the effects within the United States by themselves warrant this judgment. The Administrator also considered the scientific evidence concerning risks and impacts occurring outside the United States, including risks and impacts that can affect people in the United States, and finds that they provide further support for this finding.