EPA to Finally Declare Greenhouse Gases Harmful

The Environmental Protection Agency stands ready to declare greenhouse gases a harmful air pollutant, setting the federal government on a path toward regulating emissions, according to a plethora of news sources. The New York Times predicts the effects:

In practical terms, the finding would allow quick federal regulation of motor vehicle emissions of heat-trapping gases and, if further actions are taken by the E.P.A., it could open the doors for regulatory controls on power plants, oil refineries, cement plants and other factories.

The so-called endangerment finding is currently under review at OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House office that reviews and edits significant federal regulatory actions.

deleteAn agency’s decision to summit a regulatory proposal to OIRA is usually not such a major event (or at least not so well-chronicled in the media); but EPA’s endangerment finding has history.

In late 2007, EPA sent to OIRA via email an endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. But OIRA refused to open the email. A 2008 New York Times article reports:

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. [Bush administration officials said] the new law’s approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

Yesterday, officials in the Obama White House, by performing the simple task of accepting EPA’s request to review the document, set off a barrage of reactions and news coverage. The entry for EPA’s endangerment finding appeared yesterday on the website that keeps track of the items OIRA is reviewing. Here’s all the information we’re given for now:

There’s reason to be hopeful that OIRA will treat the endangerment finding more kindly the second time around. OIRA has already approved a proposed rule that would create a national registry for greenhouse gas emissions reporting (a prerequisite to meaningful emissions controls), which EPA announced earlier this month. More on that here.

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