The Environmental Protection Agency has a legal mandate to regulate harmful air pollution. This hasn’t traditionally been understood to include carbon dioxide because when the EPA was created there was no scientific consensus that CO2 emissions were harmful. But over time, evidence accumulated and it long ago became clear that CO2 emissions are harmful. But the EPA was ruled by the Bush administration and its paymasters in the pollution industry so nothing was done. So there was a lawsuit and the Supreme Court required the EPA to start regulating carbon dioxide. But the EPA was ruled by the Bush administration and its paymasters in the pollution industry so nothing was done. But now it’s a new day:
The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States’ negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.
The environmental agency is under order from the Supreme Court to make a determination whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers public health and welfare, an order that the Bush administration essentially ignored despite near-unanimous belief among agency experts that research points inexorably to such a finding.
Lisa P. Jackson, the new E.P.A. administrator, said in an interview that she had asked her staff to review the latest scientific evidence and prepare the documentation for a so-called endangerment finding. Ms. Jackson said she had not decided to issue such a finding but she pointedly noted that the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. E.P.A., is April 2, and there is the wide expectation that she will act by then.
You still need congressional action to get a real climate policy in place, but this step can both do good on its own and ideally act as a bit of a kick in the ass to the legislative branch to stop thinking of reasons to stall on necessary action and start thinking about ways to do what needs to be done in the best way.