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Gibbs Dodges Questions About EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulation

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dodged questions from a reporter at today’s daily briefing on whether President Obama would push the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if Congress does not cap emissions in energy legislation.

EPA regulation of emissions is the worst-case scenario for Republicans and many Democrats, who see regulation under the Clean Air Act as much more complicated than passing legislation to address the issue. Electric utilities, in recent negotiations on a utility-only cap-and-trade bill, have asked for preemption of EPA regulation and a number of requirements under the Clean Air Act.

In a 2007 decision, the Supreme Court found that EPA would have to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if it determined that they endangered public health. In its so-called endangerment finding, EPA concluded that greenhouse gas emissions do endanger public health, compelling the agency to regulate the emissions under the Clean Air Act, though the White House has stated its preference to deal with climate change in Congress.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) attempted to pass a resolution that would have overturned the endangerment finding, but it was rejected last month.

Here’s the exchange between Gibbs and the reporter, via a White House transcript of today’s briefing:

Q The President has said that capping carbon emissions is critical to achieving his goals environmentally, on energy, and on the economy. Does he feel strongly enough about that, that he’s committed to using his executive authority to the EPA if Congress will not cap carbon emissions, which is now very much in doubt?

MR. GIBBS: Let me get some updated guidance. I will say obviously that this entire debate, John, is based on — not on some grander policy design, but because a group of states sued the Environmental Protection Agency and the court said that the issue needed to be dealt with.

The question the President has asked and believes, rightly so, is that whether or not we’re going to do that indiscriminately or whether or not we can get everybody at the table and come up with some genuine common-sense ideas that create a path towards energy independence, that improve our national security so we can — we stop exporting hundreds of millions of dollars a day overseas, and to create a market for the very jobs that the President both highlighted last week in Michigan and that we have seen created as a result of some of the investments in the Recovery Act.

Q But does he think the use of the regulatory authority is better than nothing if Congress can’t pass it?

MR. GIBBS: Look, I think we — our great hope is still that Congress won’t find itself in that situation, but instead will do what is necessary to meet the obligations of the court suit and do so in a way that gives everybody input on that decision.

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