Photo via Apollo Alliance
News broke earlier today that the EPA was getting ready to make its long awaited announcement--that carbon dioxide is a threat to human health. Well, the moment has come, and now it's official: the EPA has found that CO2 and six other greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health and welfare. This is huge news--it will completely revolutionize the way the US views carbon emissions, and it opens the door for the government to take action against greenhouse gases. And it's perhaps the biggest victory in the fight against climate change in US politics yet.Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator has issued an endangerment finding that officially labels CO2 and other greenhouse gases a public threat. From the finding: (PDF)
Today the Administrator is proposing to find that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. The Administrator is also proposing to find that greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines are contributing to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This action is being taken under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.
Why the EPA's Finding Matters
It means that clamping down on carbon spewing companies and vehicles is a real possibility. Yet it's important to bear in mind that this is just an endangerment finding--it does not give the EPA the authority to begin regulating greenhouse gases. It does, however, allow that option to become legally feasible. Why?
Because just over two years ago, the US Supreme Court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants and are therefore covered under the 2002 Clean Air Act--and open to be regulated as other dangerous pollutants are--the EPA just had to confirm the finding, which it never did. Until now. This is one reason that this listing is such a momentous occasion--now Obama has legal grounds to regulate carbon emissions generated by polluting industries and motor vehicles. Or, at least a major bargaining chip in pushing for legislation that would regulate CO2 less stringently.
Voice Your Support for the EPA's CO2 Finding
As soon as the finding is published in the Federal Register, there will be a public comment period open for 60 days. Additionally, there will be two public hearings that citizens are free to attend in person, or online via streaming video. The first hearing is slated to take place May 18th at the EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center in Arlington, VA. The second is on May 21st at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, WA.
Whether or not you believe the EPA should regulate polluting companies, if you're concerned about carbon emissions in the US you have every reason to support this finding. It effectively lays a foundation for political action on climate change, and may finally incite polluters to seriously consider curbing emissions.