The Environmental Protection Agency has formally declared greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide emissions a threat to public health and the environment. The move could propel controversial cap-and-trade legislation, which has stalled during the ongoing economic recession.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made the declaration shortly after noon on Monday, Dec. 7, just as many U.S. and foreign leaders have opened talks at a global summit on climate change under way in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“These are reasonable, commonsense steps that will allow us to do what the Clean Air Act does best: Reduce emissions for better health and protect the environment for a better future,” Jackson said. “We hope today’s announcement serves as another incentive for far-reaching accords in our meeting this week.”
The announcement doesn’t define specific emissions limits, though it will likely lead to more regulation of emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks down the road. For now, EPA will inventory greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
The U.S. House approved in July a cap-and-trade bill aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A Senate version has advanced from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, even though health care and other pressing issues have seemed to be a higher priority for senators.
Cap and trade would establish carbon emission limits for several business sectors and is expected to cause sharp increases in fuel and diesel prices. A credit system would allow businesses that operate above limits to purchase credits and businesses with leftover credits to sell on the open market.
Jackson said folding carbon dioxide emissions into efforts the EPA already enforces as part of the federal Clean Air Act can be done with or without cap-and-trade legislation.
“I believe the Clean Air Act can complement legislative efforts,” Jackson told a reporter during the press conference. “I don’t believe it’s an either/or.”
“The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements,” an EPA statement issued Monday read.
For more information, visit the EPA’s Web site.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer