WASHINGTON — The Obama administration took a major step Monday toward imposing the first federal limits on climate-changing pollution from cars, power plants and factories, declaring there is compelling scientific evidence that global warming from man-made greenhouse gases endangers Americans’ health.
The announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency was clearly timed to build momentum toward an agreement at the international conference on climate change that opened Monday in Copenhagen. It signaled that the administration is prepared to push ahead for significant controls in the U.S. if Congress doesn’t act on its own.
The price could be steep for industry and consumers. The EPA finding clears the way for rules that could eventually require vehicles to be more fuel efficient and plants to install costly new equipment — at a cost of billions or even tens of billions of dollars — or shift to other forms of energy.
Energy prices for many Americans would probably rise, too, though Monday’s finding will have no immediate effect since regulations have yet to be written.
The EPA said scientific evidence clearly shows that greenhouse gases “threaten the public health and welfare of the American people” and that the pollutants — mainly carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels — should be reduced.
“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse gas pollution,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.
She rejected assertions by skeptics that the science of global warming remains in doubt, an argument given additional attention in recent weeks with the disclosure through intercepted e-mails that a British scientist had privately discussed ways to shield certain climate data from public scrutiny.
“The vast body of evidence not only remains unassailable, it has grown even stronger,” Jackson said.
Environmentalists hailed the EPA announcement as a clear indication that the United States will take steps to attack climate change even if Congress fails to act. But business groups said regulating carbon emissions through the EPA under existing law would put new economic burdens on manufacturers and drive up energy prices.
“It will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project,” said Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in recent months has been particularly critical of the EPA’s attempt to address climate change.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, used the controversy over climate data to raise questions about the EPA’s ruling.
“When the scientists whose work is the bedrock for our global-warming policy use words like travesty and trick to describe their actions . . . it’s time to slow down and consider what we’re doing, not sound the charge,” he said. “Regrettably, good sense got run over today when EPA hit the gas instead of tapping the brakes.”
From “EPA: Global warming is a threat to Americans’ health” by H. Josef Hebert and Dina Cappiello, published December 08, 2009 at Star-Telegram.