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December 08, 2009
EPA Announces Endangerment Findings on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    by Robert Kropp

The Agency responds to 2007 Supreme Court ruling by finding that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten public health and welfare, and finalizes proposed regulations to reduce vehicle emissions.

In a media briefing that coincided with yesterday's opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) talks in Copenhagen, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced the signing of two findings relating to greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The EPA's endangerment finding determined that the six primary GHGs threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. Additionally, the EPA found that emissions from motor vehicles contribute to GHG pollution of the earth's atmosphere, and therefore to climate change.

The findings constitute the EPA's response to a 2007 decision by the US Supreme Court that, based on the Clean Air Act, the Agency had the authority to regulate GHG emissions. The Court's decision stated in part, "EPA can avoid promulgating regulations only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change."

The EPA under the Bush Administration failed to issue proposals for the reduction of GHG emissions. In a letter to the EPA Administrator at the time, Representative Henry Waxman wrote that the Agency's failure to do so amounted to "an abdication of your responsibility to protect health and the environment from dangerous emissions."

While yesterday's endangerment findings do not directly impose emissions reduction requirements, it does allow the Agency to finalize emissions requirements proposed in September for new light-duty vehicles. The Agency projects that its proposed regulations would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of vehicles produced between 2012 and 2016.

Additional actions taken by the EPA under the Obama administration this year include requiring large emitters to report on GHG emissions, and requiring large emitting facilities to deploy the best technology available for controlling emissions when constructing new plants or expanding existing ones.

In the briefing, Jackson said, "This long-overdue finding cements 2009's place in history as the year when the United States Government began seriously addressing the challenge of greenhouse gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform."

"Today's action is a step towards enduring, pragmatic solutions to the enormous challenge of climate change," Jackson continued. "It is a step towards innovation, investment and implementation of technologies that reduce harmful emissions. And it's a step towards green jobs, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and a better future for our children."


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