EPA Finalizes Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases

December 11, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced Monday that her Agency has finalized an endangerment finding against six greenhouse gases (GHGs), empowering it to regulate emissions of those gases under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.

While the finding itself will not impose regulations, it will empower the Agency to move forward with regulations on GHG emissions from vehicles – regulations that most observers believe that it will eventually expand to other emissions, including those from farms.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007’s Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that if EPA found certain GHGs endanger public health, they would be subject to regulation under Title V of the Clean Air Act. The EPA first issued a draft finding in April, beginning the bureaucratic process of regulation under the Court’s order.

The EPA’s announcement this week came immediately before two weeks of international talks on the issue of climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, and sparked widespread optimism among those looking to impose GHG reductions that it would empower the U.S. to negotiate.

The endangerment finding process also spurred interest in completing climate change legislation that passed the House this summer but has stalled in the Senate. Jackson said repeatedly in media interviews on Monday that she and the Administration prefer a legislative solution to the issue of GHG emissions versus simply regulating them from the executive branch.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) released a framework this week for a compromise. It called for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a cap-and-trade-like system, but provided few further details. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) also released a framework bill intended to be a cap-and-trade alternative.

Still others have pledged to fight the endangerment finding in court. For instance, the Competitive Enterprise Institute announced it will file suit in federal court to overturn the endangerment finding on the grounds that EPA has ignored major scientific issues.