The EPA sent a finding to the White House on Friday that should surprise no ecologists: that greenhouse gases are pollutants that endanger the public welfare. What might surprise ecologists is that it was sent at all.
Until the final days of the Bush administration, the executive branch dragged its feet on a 2007 edict by the Supreme Court that they decide whether to use the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions. Finally they punted, saying last July that they would instead seek extensive public comment on the threat of greenhouse gases to human welfare.
Now, with the information it received on Friday, the Obama administration will have to decide whether to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
President Obama has said in the past that he’d prefer to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through legislation, probably within an energy bill that imposes an emissions cap.
Bill Kovacs, the vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, thinks that now is the wrong time to bring up the issue again. If the administration decides to move forward with the Clean Air Act, he says, then any infrastructure project, including the ones just beginning under the stimulus bill, will be subject to extensive review for greenhouse gas emissions. A situation like this could be disastrous for the economy, he says.
A spokesperson for the EPA said that if accepted, the proposal would still need public hearings and comment before it would become final and “would not impose any new regulatory burdens on any projects,” according to the Washington Post.
Whatever the outcome, the EPA’s move highlights a very different attitude at the agency since January 20.
Read the Washington Post article here.