Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EPA Issues Proposed Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On April 17, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a proposed finding under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1)) that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger the public health and welfare.

The decision implements the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007) 549 U.S. 497 (2007). The Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is an “air pollutant” subject to regulation by the Clean Air Act. The case involved a petition to the EPA by several states and environmental groups, pursuant to Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, seeking regulation of CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate emissions of any air pollutants from mobile sources that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

The EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six greenhouse gases. The action, if finalized, would not itself impose any requirements on industry or other entities, however. The scientific analysis also confirms that climate change affects human health in several ways, including the following:

* higher concentrations of ground-level ozone
* increased drought
* more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires
* greater sea level rise
* more intense storm events
* increased flooding
* harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife, and ecosystems

A 60-day public comment period commences on the date that the proposed endangerment finding is published in the Federal Register. Public hearings are scheduled in Arlington, Virginia, on May 18 and Seattle, Washington, on May 21.

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