While much of the current discussion surrounding climate policy in the United States tends to focus on Congress writing cap and trade legislation, it is important to note that Obama’s EPA is steadfastly moving along the greenhouse gas regulatory process.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
Whether this is a deliberate effort to get Congress to act or the EPA under head administrator Lisa Jackson just doing her job is unclear. However, steps taken on the regulatory front could help the Obama Administration next month in its effort to convince other countries that the US is moving on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
Today it was reported that the EPA sent to the White House the final scientific finding on the hazards of greenhouse gas emissions. This process began during the Bush Administration when the EPA was sued under the Clean Air Act to make a determination about the hazards of GHGs. If excessive concentrations are found to endanger public health or welfare, the EPA must regulate them.
Hearings were held and comments were taken earlier this year and all that is needed now is basically White House approval of the scientific findings. One the finding is official, that could have wide implications on the regulation and give the EPA unprecedented power to restrict emissions.
Many people argue that EPA regulation may not be the most effective way to engage in economy-wide mitigation–and, in fact, there is currently a debate in Congress on whether to strip the EPA of GHG regulatory power under any cap and trade regime. But, if Congress won’t act, the EPA actions are evidence that the Administration will.
Also on the EPA’s plate is a potential rule that would require large emitters to make upgrades in efficiency to reduce GHG emissions as part of the standard permitting process. For instance, power plants would be required to get up-to-date efficiency technology on a regular basis. This “tailoring rule” would cover sources responsible for about 70% of US emissions, so the mitigation potential could be significant.
The EPA is currently taking public comment on the tailoring rule, which you can look at online. It is interesting to look at the comments–which are generally updated daily–to see what people are thinking and which interest groups are engaged in coordinated campaigning. There are quite a few comments from people cutting and pasting boilerplate text from the National Association of Manufacturers who suggest that the EPA is trying to “regulate your life.”
My favorite so far was from an individual who implored the EPA to “get your jackboots off the throats of the American people!”
There will also be public hearings held next week in Arlington, VA (Wed, Nov.18) and the Chicago suburb of Rosemont (Thurs., Nov. 19). As of this writing, the only speaker who has registered for the Rosemont meeting is, David Sykuta, a registered lobbyist for the Illinois Petroleum Council. Anyone can speak, however, and I don’t think pre-registration is required.