EPA Makes it Official: Emissions Threaten Public Health

Acting under a Supreme Court mandate, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled today that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and contribute to the harmful environmental effects of climate change, paving the way for pollution regulations under the Clean Air Act.

US_regulate_national_auto_emissions.jpg(Photo: TreeHugger)

“Today, EPA announced that greenhouse gases threaten the health and
welfare of the American people,” EPA chief Lisa Jackson said at a press conference (audio available here). “We also found that greenhouse gas
emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat.”

The EPA’s ruling, also known in Washington as an “endangerment finding,” clears the way for the agency to play a role in implementing new auto fuel-efficiency standards released by the White House in September.

Vehicles are the No. 2 contributor to total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA said today, with electricity generation taking the top spot. “U.S. emissions from on-road vehicles are also greater than the total greenhouse gas emissions from every other individual nation, with the exception of China, Russia, and India,” the EPA said in a release on its ruling.

But given that the “endangerment finding” has been in the works at the EPA since the earliest days of the Obama administration, what does today’s announcement mean for the future of climate change legislation?

In the Senate, where a climate bill that would direct hundreds of billions of dollars to clean transportation remains mired in political maneuvering, Democrats aimed to use the EPA ruling to spur their slow process forward.

“The message to Congress is crystal clear: get moving,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the climate measure’s chief sponsor, said in a statement. Kerry added:

If Congress does not
pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration is more than justified to use the EPA to impose new regulations. Imposed regulations
by definition will not include the job protections and investment incentives we
are proposing in the Senate today.

If the EPA ultimately steps into the emissions-regulating role that Congress aims to play with its climate bill, there would be little chance of survival for grant programs dedicated to funding transit, local land-use planning, and other transportation planning goals.

In her own statement on the EPA ruling, Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer said:

It is now clear that if we take our responsibility
seriously to protect and defend our people from this threat, the Senate has a
duty to act on climate change legislation that includes major components of the
work done by the Energy and Environment Committees.

Still, the next step in climate legislation is unlikely to occur before January or February, when the Senate Finance Committee, headed by environmental fence-sitter Max Baucus (D-MT), is expected to hold its first votes on language that determines how to distribute revenue generated from future emissions limits.

(ed. note. More information on today’s EPA ruling, including information specific to auto fuel-efficiency, can be found here.)

  • jim

    That car in tree huggers photo is a forien car, probably french. I doubt if it was taken in the US

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Final Obama Fuel-Efficiency Rule Gives Breaks to Electric, Luxury Cars

|
The Obama administration today released its final rule raising U.S. auto fuel-efficiency standards to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016, winning plaudits from environmental groups while offering extra benefits to makers of electric and luxury cars. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, at left, with EPA chief Lisa Jackson at right. (Photo: Getty […]

Automakers Oppose Congressional Bid to Bar EPA From Limiting Emissions

|
The auto industry today aligned with the White House in the debate over a congressional bid to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon emissions while lawmakers work to pass a climate bill, warning that such an attempt to yank EPA authority "would collapse" last year’s agreement to raise fuel-efficiency standards. (Photo: TreeHugger) […]

Higher Gas Prices Alone Won’t Make Cleaner Cars a Reality

|
The average carbon emissions of U.S. vehicles. (Image: EPA) It’s a storyline that the media and the auto industry have embraced: Higher gas prices are the magic ingredient that U.S. carmakers need in order to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles to consumers.  The narrative is tempting, especially for those who believe federal gas taxes need to […]

On Emissions, CA Lawmaker Questions Whether CA Should Lead the Way

|
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson today told House members that she would soon begin work on new auto fuel-efficiency rules for the year 2017 and beyond, responding to calls from carmakers searching for certainty — and warily eyeing the new fuel standards being crafted in California. (Photo: The Weekly Driver) The political and […]

New GOP Bill Would Bar Enviro Reviews from Considering Climate

|
Republicans on the Senate environment committee, who months ago began criticizing the Obama administration for evaluating federally funded infrastructure projects for their impact on climate change, today introduced legislation that would bar the White House from making climate a factor in environmental reviews. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), one of the new NEPA bill’s sponsors, holds […]

The Dirty Secret of Coal Ash: It’s in Our Roads

|
Watch CBS News Videos Online Last night’s 60 Minutes featured an eye-opening report (viewable above) on the 130 million tons of coal ash waste generated every year by the nation’s thirst for energy. The show outlined the lack of oversight over disposal of the toxic ash, which is routinely used in the most commonplace of […]