EPA takes step toward regulating greenhouse gases

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, April 17, issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act. The action followed a 2007 Supreme Court decision that ordered a scientific review of the issue.

If finalized, EPA’s proposed finding could give the agency broad authority to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and five other gases that an analysis showed contribute to climate change. EPA said the science slows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions and that these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.

Climate change, in turn, affects human health in several ways, EPA says. One recent study concluded that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. Other potential impacts may include increased drought, more flooding, more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires, greater sea level rise, more intense storms and harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems, EPA concluded. In addition, climate change has national security implications due to destabilization resulting from scarce resources, such as water, the agency said.

EPA noted that the proposed finding does not include any proposed regulations. The agency said it would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input before taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases. EPA also reiterated President Obama’s preference for legislation to address greenhouse gases.

For more information on the EPA finding, click here.