Greenhouse gases threaten public health, EPA says

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As expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month announced a final finding that greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also announced its finding that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat. According to EPA, GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; and other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.

“Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change,” says EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”

EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision and EPA’s subsequent advance notice of proposed rulemaking that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emissions reduction requirements, but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of a joint rulemaking with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, according to EPA. The agency’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles would seek to reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key GHGs – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

President Obama and Jackson support a legislative solution to climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. EPA issued the proposed findings last April and held a 60-day public comment period; the agency received more than 380,000 comments. For more information, go to www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html.