Monday, December 07, 2009

EPA Recognizes Carbon Emissions as a Threat

Today the EPA declared carbon emissions to be a threat to human health and welfare, which will obligate the agency to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Jackson said that she did not know when the EPA would reveal detailed plans for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, or if the agency would wait to see if the U.S. Senate passes climate legislation early next year. Jackson said that legislation was still the best way to tackle the problem -- but said she was not trying to prod Congress with Monday's finding.

Instead, Jackson said, the administration was bound to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's order in 2007 to determine if these emissions endanger public health. ...

Businesses argue that such a finding would mean even emitters as small as a mom-and-pop grocery store would be forced to comply with onerous greenhouse gas regulations. The administration has crafted rules that would exempt facilities that emit less than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent annually. But it remains unclear whether that exemption would hold up in court.
I have trouble believing that the timing of the announcement is an accident, as it coincides with the opening of the major climate conference in Copenhagen. It demonstrates some seriousness on the part of the Obama administration as they meet with other world leaders to negotiate a new treaty. Whether or not Jackson intends to put pressure on Congress to pass a cap and trade bill, today's declaration ought to make such a bill more attractive to both supporters and opponents, not just as a way to start regulations but also as a way of influencing their impact.

Past EPA regulations have met with similar wailing on the part of entrenched interests, but ended up costing a lot less than advertised.