green and sustainable business

EPA: Planet, people at risk from GHGs

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We knew this already but with one bold stroke the Obama administration can now take decisive steps to quell polluting emissions no matter the outcome of the Copenhagen summit or what the Inhofes of the world ignorantly believe: Greenhouse gases are a threat to the environment and public health.

That “endangerment finding” from the Environmental Protection Agency Monday prepares the way for strict regulations to reduce GHG emissions from industrial plants and from the transportation industry.

EPA’s announcement sends a sharp signal to the world that the Obama administration is serious about addressing climate change on both the world stage and within its own borders. It also tells the U.S. Congress that the administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary. It raises the stakes for clean vehicle and cleantech development and also adds another brick in the wall to support  rapid congressional approval of comprehensive health care reform.

More importantly the EPA finding goes beyond mere words and underscores a firm break with the policies and inaction of the past decade or so.

“Threat” is the word that the EPA finding and agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson used often in describing the finding. EPA also found that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to the environmental and public health threat.

EPA says, “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.”

In her remarks Monday Jackson said, “These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform. Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change.

“This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”
EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not impose any emission reduction requirements but, for example, allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

The endangerment finding covers emissions of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

“Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades,” EPA says.

“The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns, and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.”

“This administration will not ignore science or the law any longer,” Jackson asserted.

She added that the endangerment finding “provides the legal foundation for finalizing the recently proposed clean cars program.” The program was developed in collaboration with the American auto industry and other stakeholders, she said, and contains the nation’s first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from American vehicles.

Starting next spring, large emitting facilities will be required to incorporate the best available methods for controlling greenhouse gas emissions in their construction or expansion planning. In addition, the EPA’s nationwide GHG emissions reporting and monitoring system begins next month.

“As the major global warming summit begins this week in Copenhagen, this announcement couldn’t come at a more important time,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The Obama administration has followed through on its pledge to act and is demonstrating that the U.S. has turned away from eight years of inaction under the Bush administration.”  It’s “one more key commitment President Obama can bring to the world to show that the U.S. will do its part to fight global warming,” Pope continued.

Deny, disbelieve and delay at your peril — whether on not you believe believe climate change is occurring is now irrelevant. Hear that Sen. Inhofe? It’s official Jimmy: You are irrelevant. Regulations to reduce GHG emissions are relevant and on the way.

Time to get on the pollution-free bus, Gus

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Written by William DiBenedetto

8 December, 2009 at 2:54 pm

One Response

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  1. Wow, I did not heard about that up to now. Cheers!


    13 December, 2009 at 12:44 pm

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