Grist’s Kate Sheppard has a great story on today’s big news, the EPA decision that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare:
The long-expected finding, set in motion two years ago by a Supreme Court ruling, moves the Obama administration one step closer to regulating CO2 emissions from a number of sources across the country. But it leaves unanswered questions about how the agency will go forward and which industries will be most affected.
The news set off a flurry of reactions from wary industry reps, gratified green groups, and eager politicians. Here’s a sampling.
The American Petroleum Institute is none too pleased:
The proposed endangerment finding poses an endangerment to the American economy and to every American family. It could lead to greenhouse gas regulations under a law fundamentally ill-suited to addressing the challenge of global climate change. The regulations could impose complex, costly requirements on restaurants, colleges, schools, shopping malls, bakeries and many other businesses and institutions.
Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents power companies, offered a similar warning:
While EPA’s endangerment finding arises in the context of automobile emissions, the finding can have profound consequences for all industry in the United States. Over 20 different industrial sectors are heavily dependent on traditional fossil fuels, and many more rely upon the products, feedstocks and commodities created by those industries. The annual benefit of coal use alone has been estimated at more that $1 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly 7 million jobs.
If reliance upon coal-fired generation were to diminish by a third as a result of EPA regulatory programs, GDP would be reduced by about $166 billion, household incomes by $64 billion, and employment by 1.2 million jobs. To the extent green jobs are created, they would come only after severe trauma to the economy and would likely be lower-paying than the manufacturing jobs they displace.
Those in our economy least able to afford it would unfortunately be hurt the worst. Americans living on fixed incomes, at or near the poverty level, pay a far greater percentage of their monthly income on energy bills.
Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
A more potent Anti-Stimulus Package would be difficult to imagine.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opened its statement with a somewhat measured reaction:
“Today’s proposed finding shows that EPA is at a crossroads when it comes to greenhouse gases,” said Bill Kovacs, vice president for Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber. “In proposing endangerment without attaching regulations, the EPA recognizes that the framework of the Clean Air Act poses a unique set of legal and, ultimately, economic problems.”
“The motor vehicle title of the Act, under which this proposed finding is made, allows EPA the flexibility to phase in regulations while taking into account technological and economic considerations,” Kovacs continued. “The rest of the Act, however, does not—and a final endangerment finding will surely spur litigation to shoehorn all emitters, not just motor vehicles, into a wide range of Clean Air Act programs. The EPA therefore has a choice to make: it can proceed at a pace consistent with current and future technology, or it can allow non-governmental entities and activist groups to take the regulations out of EPA’s hands and apply the Clean Air Act through the courts. The second option would kill economic growth and jobs.”
No surprise, the National Association of Manufacturers said it opposes using the Clean Air Act to deal with CO2 emissions. The group said it was already on record as having…:
“…warned that using outdated programs under the CAA as a tool for regulating GHG emissions will further burden an ailing economy while doing little or nothing to improve the environment. Between 2000 and the first quarter of 2008, as many as 3.7 million jobs were lost in the U.S. in large part because of high energy prices. ‘This proposal will cost jobs. It is the worst possible time to be proposing rules that will drive up the cost of energy to no valid purpose,’ said NAM President John Engler.”
Environment America’s Emily Figdor put her reaction in layman’s terms:
‘Duh’ may not be a scientific term, but it applies here. Today, common sense prevailed over pressure from Big Oil and other big polluters to deny the obvious in order to maintain the status quo on energy. EPA has embraced the basic facts on global warming that scientists around the world have acknowledged for years. We applaud President Obama and EPA Administrator Jackson for putting science back in its rightful place at the forefront of environmental policy.
The Sierra Club met the news with a new “Big Picture” campaign, promising outright support for President Obama’s energy agenda:
“President Obama sees the Big Picture—by shifting to clean energy, and cracking down on the corporations that pollute the water we drink and the air we breathe, we can restore our economy to prosperity and reduce our dependence on oil and coal, all while tackling global warming,” said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director.
Entitled “The Big Picture: Help Obama Build Our Clean Energy Future,” the grassroots effort will employ online and off-line tactics to generate public comments and support for the numerous administrative findings, rules and regulations expected over the coming months and years.
Greenpeace, on the other hand, isn’t ready to break out the champagne and party hats. It’s gloomier take on the EPA’s finding begins “It’s about time,” and continues:
Today’s announcement is also a testament to the success of industry in delaying real action to stop climate change. It took eleven states, ten years, two IPCC reports, two changes of presidency and one Supreme Court decision to reach the obvious conclusion that global warming endangers human health and welfare and EPA has a duty to do something about it.
There is a clear lesson here for both the Administration and Congress as they craft a global warming bill this year: industry will exploit every ambiguity, every gap and every loophole in legislation to avoid real climate action as much and as long as possible. Fuzzy wording and big exemptions inserted to buy off industry support for a bill could delay real emission reductions for years or decades. The planet cannot afford that.
The Environmental Defense Fund issued a similar call for political vigilance:
The usual suspects that lobby to delay progress and avoid accountability continue to use scare tactics to claim that action by EPA will result in a “cow tax” and make other absurd claims. EPA is not even requiring reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for sources emitting less than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. To put the 25,000 reporting threshold into perspective, it is the amount of pollution emitted from the annual energy use of about 2,200 homes, approximately 58,000 barrels of oil consumed, or 130 railcars of coal.
Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, offered a warning to disgruntled business interests:
[I]f business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continue to oppose congressional action [on climate change], they ought to ask themselves, in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood, “Do you feel lucky?”
The Obama administration now has the legal equivalent of a 44 magnum. The bullets aren’t loaded yet, but they could be.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), whose state has taken a lead in tackling climate change, praised the Obama admin for getting with the program:
[I]t’s promising to see the new administration in Washington showing signs that it will take an aggressive leadership role in fighting climate change that will lead to reduced emissions, thousands of new green jobs and a healthier future for our children and our planet.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
I welcome the decision by the Obama Administration … The Congress is working on a comprehensive solution to global warming, and I am committed to moving clean energy legislation this year that will include perspectives from across our nation to create jobs, improve our national security, and reduce global warming.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will begin hearings on the Waxman-Markey climate bill next week:
The EPA announcement confirms what science has told us — global warming pollution poses a grave threat to the nation’s public health and welfare. EPA is legally compelled to take action and I commend them for complying with the law. However, I believe it is Congress that should create a comprehensive framework to combat global warming that will break our dependence on foreign sources of energy and help transform our economy with millions of new clean energy jobs.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee:
Today, the EPA concluded that our health and our planet are in danger. Now it is time for Congress to create a clean energy cure. Taking action on clean energy and global warming has a national security imperative, an economic imperative to create jobs, and now a clear legal and public health imperative.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:
EPA, through its scientists, has given us a warning that global warming pollution is a clear, present and future danger to America’s families. If Congress does not act to pass legislation, then I will call on EPA to take all steps authorized by law to protect our families.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee:
The environment and public health won a big victory today. The science is clear on the serious threat posed by greenhouse gases and the need for swift action. Congress needs to follow EPA’s lead by placing science-based limits on greenhouse gases and putting Americans to work building a cleaner, more efficient economy.
Sen. James “global-warming-is-a-hoax” Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee:
Today’s action by the EPA is the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America’s global competitiveness. It now appears EPA’s regulatory reach will find its way into schools, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and just about any activity that meets minimum thresholds in the Clean Air Act…
It’s worth noting that the solution to this ‘glorious mess’ is not for Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, which replaces one very bad approach with another. Congress should pass a simple, narrowly-targeted bill that stops EPA in its tracks.
Heard more interesting reactions? Post ‘em below in comments.
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