Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson is officially confirming today that greenhouse gas pollution endangers the health and welfare of the American public, finally obeying the mandate set down by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 2, 2007. Following a review from the White House and agencies across the administration, Jackson is announcing this morning that she has signed the Clean Air Act endangerment finding for six greenhouse gases. By the time the decision is finalized after two months of public comment, it will have been nearly two years since the EPA was blocked by the Bush White House from issuing such a finding.
The definition of “welfare” in Section 302(h) of the Clean Air Act states:
All language referring to effects on welfare includes, but is not limited to, effects on soils, water, crops, vegetation, manmade materials, animals, wildlife, weather, visibility, and climate, damage to and deterioration of property, and hazards to transportation, as well as effects on economic values and on personal comfort and well-being, whether caused by transformation, conversion, or combination with other pollutants.
From soils and water to weather, economic values and, of course, climate — all of these elements of our welfare have been unequivocally damaged by manmade global warming already, with much worse to come if the pollution is not arrested.
This decision comes more than 16 years after the United States ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. As Center for American Progress senior fellow Robert Sussman — now the EPA senior policy counsel — explained last year, the EPA will be able to move forward with regulations to limit greenhouse gas pollution to build a clean-energy economy:
The Clean Air Act, for example, imposes emission performance standards on new major sources of pollution and modifications of existing sources with emission increases over a set threshold. It should be possible to limit these standards to large power plants and other facilities that are significant emitters of CO2, and to exclude smaller sources, such as the hospitals, schools, stores, and apartment buildings of concern to the president. And it should be possible to implement a trading system for large sources that provides flexibility and reduces compliance costs. That is not to say, of course, that large sources would be off the hook from controlling their CO2 emissions — why should they be? — but it does mean that meaningless requirements with no climate change payoff can be avoided.
The Obama administration is finally removing one of the great blots of the George W. Bush legacy with this action.
The proposed endangerment finding is now available:
The Administrator concludes that, in the circumstances presented here, the case for finding that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger public health and welfare is compelling and, indeed, overwhelming. The scientific evidence described here is the product of decades of research by thousands of scientists from the U.S. and around the world. The evidence points ineluctably to the conclusion that climate change is upon us as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, that climatic changes are already occurring that harm our health and welfare, and that the effects will only worsen over time in the absence of regulatory action. The effects of climate change on public health include sickness and death. It is hard to imagine any understanding of public health that would exclude these consequences. The effects on welfare embrace every category of effect described in the Clean Air Act’s definition of “welfare” and, more broadly, virtually every facet of the living world around us.
,Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) responds:
While the federal government was asleep at the wheel for years, we in California have known greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and to our environment — that’s why we have taken such aggressive action to reduce harmful emissions and move toward a greener economy. Two years after the Supreme Court declared greenhouse gas emissions a pollutant, it’s promising to see the new administration in Washington showing signs that it will take an aggressive leadership role in fighting climate change that will lead to reduced emissions, thousands of new green jobs and a healthier future for our children and our planet.