As Copenhagen Talks Open, EPA Issues Endangerment Finding
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its long-awaited endangerment finding today, formalizing its conclusion that greenhouse gases — and the resulting climate change — pose a threat to human health and empowering the agency to regulate the emissions of these gases.
“The Administrator finds that six greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations,” the finding begins.
EPA action has long been seen as a tool to spur congressional action on climate legislation — the threat of EPA regulation could induce otherwise wary lawmakers to pass pollution controls on their own terms — but the timing of today’s announcement suggests another motivation. International climate talks in Copenhagen kicked off this morning, and in the absence of a domestic climate bill, the EPA move gives American negotiators evidence of U.S. action on climate change as they seek commitments from other nations around the world.
“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a press release. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”
Jackson insisted that the finding was not intended as a prod for the Senate, where prospects for climate legislation remain murky, but rather as the appropriate response to a 2007 Supreme Court hearing that required the EPA to assess the threat posed by greenhouse gases.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate’s leading crusader against climate action, was quick to condemn the finding. “The Administration’s endangerment finding will lead to a wave of new regulations and bureaucracy that will wreak havoc on the American economy, destroy millions of jobs, and force consumers to pay more for electricity and gasoline,” he said in a press release. “This bureaucratic nightmare is based on flawed science.”
Inhofe has long questioned the science behind global warming, but he and his fellow climate change deniers received a boost from the “Climategate” scandal, which raised doubts about the motives of a group of environmental scientists in England. Last week, four Republican lawmakers called on the EPA to withdraw its endangerment finding, citing the scandal.
Looks like the EPA hasn’t taken their advice.