After a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat.
GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.
That’s from the EPA’s news release today. The finding itself is here: Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act (284 pp., 377 KB). Information on the finding is here, which reports the following “Action”:
On December 7, 2009, the Administrator signed two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:
- Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
- Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.
These findings do not themselves impose any requirements on industry or other entities. However, this action is a prerequisite to finalizing the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles, which were jointly proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration on September 15, 2009.
Remember, “On April 2, 2007, in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), the Supreme Court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act” — see EPA finds carbon pollution a serious danger to Americans’ health and welfare requiring regulation. For more background, see New EPA rule will require use of best technologies to reduce greenhouse gases from large facilities when “constructed or significantly modified” — small businesses and farms exempt.
Here are the full set of resources from the EPA:
- Legal Basis
- Health Effects
- Environmental and Welfare Effects
- Climate Change Facts
- Light Duty Vehicle Program
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Technical Support Document
- Response to Comment Documents
It remains vital that the administration pursue this less-than-perfect approach in the unlikely event Congress fails to pass the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill.
Kudos to the EPA and the Obama administration for following the rule of law and science — and for making this announcement as the international conference in Copenhagen begins.
Finally, much of the science behind the impacts the nation faces if we don’t restrict emissions can be found in the 13-agency report on U.S. climate impacts from earlier this year (see “Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year — and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“).