EPA rules CO2 and five other gases ‘hazardous’

C&I Issue 24, 2009

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that greenhouse gases (GHGs) ‘threaten the health and welfare of the American people’. This paves the way for regulation of emissions by the EPA under the Clean Air Act, even without government climate legislation.

Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, said at a press conference: ‘The accumulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, the poor, the elderly – that can increase ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.’

The finding covers six GHGs: CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

The EPA has also ruled that GHGs from road vehicles contribute to this threat. The findings allow it to move forward with the GHGs emissions standards for ‘light-duty vehicles’ proposed in September. Road vehicles account for over 23% of US GHG emissions, according to EPA data. The new regulations would reduce GHG emissions by almost 950m t and conserve 1.8bn bbl of oil over the lifetime of vehicles produced between 2012 and 2016, the EPA claims.

The automotive industry markets nearly 200 models that can achieve 30 mpg or better, says the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM). In addition, 47 hybrids and ‘clean diesel’ models are now available. ‘We are going to need Americans to buy our clean, fuel-efficient autos in large numbers in order to meet this climate change commitment,’ says Dave McCurdy, AAM president and ceo.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that GHGs are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and the EPA should assess the danger to the public. In April 2009, the EPA published its proposed findings, which it has now signed.

However, industry has criticised the move, claiming ‘the EPA is hurting America’s competitiveness’ through a ‘power grab move’. Keith McCoy, vp of energy & resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), said in a statement: ‘The NAM is concerned that the EPA did not seriously take into consideration any of the thousands of comments manufacturers made on this proposal…the NAM supports cost-effective efforts to address climate change but believes the appropriate authority to address this should be Congress.’

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