Endangerment finding clears White House review

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"Endangerment finding clears White House review"

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Last month, EPA made its landmark finding: Global warming threatens public health and welfare.  Now, as Greenwire (subs. req’d) reports today:

U.S. EPA’s proposed endangerment finding cleared the White House review process yesterday, paving the way for an official announcement detailing the threats posed by global warming to both public health and welfare.

My sources say the official announcement is likely to come next Wednesday, April 22 aka Earth Day.  But this endangerment finding is going to benefit humans much more than the Earth, which will certainly be fine no matter what we humans do.

This decision means EPA and team Obama will be able to issue regulations that deal primarily with new facilities that generate substantial amounts of greenhouse gas emissions “” new dirty coal plants, this means you! (see “Obama EPA to act on global warming emissions from new coal plants“).  It also will apply pressure on Congress to act.

Here is more on today’s story:

President Obama’s EPA inherited the global warming review following an April 2007 Supreme Court decision that ordered the Bush administration to reconsider whether greenhouse gas emissions are pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

EPA sent its proposed “endangerment finding” on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the White House last month for review….

EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn today declined to give a timeline for when Jackson is expected to sign the proposal.

The EPA document said the agency does not plan to propose immediate regulations aimed at controlling heat-trapping gases from cars, power plants and major sources of greenhouse gas sources. Instead, the agency is planning to hold back on new rules to synchronize with a final endangerment finding and other environmental policies.

Industry groups have expressed concern that issuing the endangerment finding will trigger an avalanche of costly regulations of even small sources under the Clean Air Act, while agency lawyers and environmental groups insist that new rules would be carefully coordinated.

David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center, dismissed industry’s allegations as “scare tactics.”

“The EPA is able to focus on the big stuff, the big sources of global warming pollution, and the two biggest are motor vehicles and power plants, so there’s nothing to the scare stories that didn’t convince the court — the Supreme Court — and shouldn’t convince anyone that this is going to go beyond the big central sources”….

Environmentalists express hope that the regulations triggered by the finding will work in concert with congressional efforts to pass a comprehensive energy and climate change bill.

“Both EPA and congressional action are absolutely essential; they go hand in hand,” said Emily Figdor, Environment America’s federal global warming program director.

Congress should set an overall framework for transitioning to a clean energy economy and stopping global warming, while EPA exerts its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to require cars and power plants to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

I’m told we also may get an announcement concerning the California waiver that mandates cut in auto CO2 emissions, perhaps even a national standard for new cars.

Stay tuned!  Next week should be a big one for climate action.

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17 Responses to Endangerment finding clears White House review

  1. Gail says:

    This is going to make the wing-nut tea baggers go totally bonkers.

  2. Joe says:

    Gail — That is redundant, no?

  3. Brendan says:

    Applying a standard doesn’t seem that complicated as the opponents imply. There is a pretty limited number of sources for CO2 (i.e. basically limited to coal, oils and destructive land management practices), so it seems you can just regulation the mining/extraction and importation of these sources. As for the products that utilize them, they are already subject to standards, so it’s as simple as adjusting existing energy star standards for appliances and adjusting existing emissions controls on engines, etc. In fact, current battery technology seems to suggest that it may be time to consider a phase-out of small engines (<10 hp) altogether, anyway. The large industrial polluters, including power plants, also are already regulated for other pollutants, so adding another one on top seems pretty straight forward. Am I missing something, or are the “industry groups” just setting up a straw-man here?

  4. SecularAnimist says:

    You wrote: “… the Earth, which will certainly be fine no matter what we humans do.”

    That depends on what you mean by “the Earth”.

    If by “the Earth” you mean the underlying ball of rock with a molten metallic core, then sure, it will probably be “fine” no matter what we humans do … whatever “being fine” means to a ball of rock.

    On the other hand, if by “the Earth” you mean the Earth’s biosphere, then no, it is already very much NOT “fine” because of what we humans have already done, and will certainly become much less “fine” if unmitigated anthropogenic global warming is allowed to continue much longer.

    In particular, the consequences of severe ocean acidification are too ghastly to contemplate.

  5. ecostew says:

    Earth will continue to rotate the Sun long after we commit AGW-driven chaos and just be a “body rotating the sun in the solar system.”

  6. Gail says:

    Joe, it does seem redundant, but it can get worse:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/14/homeland-security-report_n_186834.html

    I do tend to be pessimistic about our prospects, because I am following all the latest scientific studies and they give very little reason not to be.

    Whilst, ever optimistic significant other says this:

    1. there are no easy answers to life’s most persistent questions
    2. there is always a worse alternative and
    3. at the end of the day, there follows tomorrow

    He thinks we will find a technological fix. I am not so sanguine.

    But I do try to find some humor in watching the deniers go off the deep end to reconcile the unreconcilable.

  7. ecostew says:

    Gail ???

  8. Gail says:

    Ecostew, what am I missing?

  9. “wing-nut tea baggers” is redundant; “go totally bonkers” is a tautology.

  10. Gail says:

    oh, go eat shoot and leave!

    Joe (Romm),

    I was just reading about once-again cresting floods approaching Fargo.

    I get so fed up with the reluctance of scientists (although I do respect why!) to link extreme weather with climate change.

    How about a sidebar that keeps track of these sorts of weather events that are, at the least, predicted by the climate models? One commenter here mentioned wildfires going on in Texas right now, and there are the various water shortages.

    Perhaps compiling the widespread occurrence of such events in one easily accessible link would be useful.

    Just a thought.

  11. Harrier says:

    The flooding in the midwest has me wondering: are we seeing the start of some kind of monsoon system developing there? Flooding has been increasingly prevalent there over the past few years.

  12. Dan Galpern says:

    The decoupling of the endangerment finding from proposed regulations is regrettable, given the urgency of the climate crisis and the availability of the Clean Air Act to begin restricting GHG emissions. Further, the endangerment finding should be based on black carbon emissions as well as the six GHGs of concern to date to the UNFCCC.

    We made these points last week in a letter to EPA. See the link under “recent news” at http://www.westernlaw.org.

  13. Sasparilla says:

    Nice to see the White House moving forward in a controlled rational manner on this. Definately looking forward to next week.

  14. Jeff says:

    I’m a bit split on the idea of announcing this finding on Earth Day.

    Though it is certainly a step in the direction of ‘saving the Earth’, it risks, in my opinion, further strengthening the association of CO2 regulation and emissions mitigation with ‘environmental’ causes.

    Many people see environmental issues as luxury concerns, often abandoned in tough economic times.

    Anthropogenic climate change threatens all systems – eco, financial, health, etc.
    Reinforcing its association with environmentalism is a bit counterproductive, i’d say.

    Joe, any thoughts about this in terms of effective messaging?

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Harrier — Certainly not monsoons. The flooding is do to faster temperature rises in the spring, so all the snow melts at once.

  16. Jeff makes a good point: the last thing we need is for this to become another “save the snail darter” hysteria, with the media interviewing the Sierra Club instead of climate scientists. Public support for serious action is the objective, not a forum for compassion venting.

    Given that it is an emergency, requiring an alarm, there should be a plan of action as well. A realistic plan, not more lofty goals and hopes.

    One concrete step toward a solution of the CO2 crisis in the US would be to embark on something resembling the federal highway system: a modern national grid. The FERC is not enough. We need a much stronger cabinet-level agency (away from DOE), with the power to sweep aside parochial obstacles and environmental hold-ups to improved capacity and transmission lines. It would involve a comprehensive inventory and strong federal regulation of electric power resources in the US, instead of the hodge-podge so slackly supervised by local PUCs and cynically gamed by players like Enron.