Endangerment finding clears White House review

U.S. EPA's proposed endangerment finding cleared the White House review process yesterday, paving the way for an official announcement detailing the threats posed by global warming to both public health and welfare.

President Obama's EPA inherited the global warming review following an April 2007 Supreme Court decision that ordered the Bush administration to reconsider whether greenhouse gas emissions are pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

EPA sent its proposed "endangerment finding" on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the White House last month for review. According to an internal EPA document obtained by Greenwire, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to sign the document Thursday, followed by a 60-day public comment period and two public hearings before the proposal can be finalized (Greenwire, March 10).

EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn today declined to give a timeline for when Jackson is expected to sign the proposal.

The EPA document said the agency does not plan to propose immediate regulations aimed at controlling heat-trapping gases from cars, power plants and major sources of greenhouse gas sources. Instead, the agency is planning to hold back on new rules to synchronize with a final endangerment finding and other environmental policies.


Industry groups have expressed concern that issuing the endangerment finding will trigger an avalanche of costly regulations of even small sources under the Clean Air Act, while agency lawyers and environmental groups insist that new rules would be carefully coordinated.

David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center, dismissed industry's allegations as "scare tactics."

"The EPA is able to focus on the big stuff, the big sources of global warming pollution, and the two biggest are motor vehicles and power plants, so there's nothing to the scare stories that didn't convince the court -- the Supreme Court -- and shouldn't convince anyone that this is going to go beyond the big central sources."

But Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has predicted that it will be difficult to limit the scope of the endangerment finding after it is finalized. He said in a recent interview that he expects environmental groups to force EPA to review a multitude of new energy and infrastructure projects to consider their threats to global warming (Greenwire, March 23).

Environmentalists express hope that the regulations triggered by the finding will work in concert with congressional efforts to pass a comprehensive energy and climate change bill.

"Both EPA and congressional action are absolutely essential; they go hand in hand," said Emily Figdor, Environment America's federal global warming program director.

Congress should set an overall framework for transitioning to a clean energy economy and stopping global warming, while EPA exerts its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to require cars and power plants to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

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