Bishop blasts EPA action
By H. Josef Hebert and Dina Cappiello (The Associated Press)
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, Denmark. It signaled the administration was prepared to push ahead for significant controls in the U.S. if Congress doesn't act first on its own.
Utah Congressman Rob Bishop immediately condemned the announcement in his role as chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.
"If ever there was an issue that cries out for the full public scrutiny through the Congressional process, EPA-led regulation of climate change is it," Bishop said in a news release.
"It comes as no surprise that the administration is once again positioning itself to bypass the Congressional process. This announcement follows a growing trend of the new administration to act unilaterally whenever their political agenda is held up in the Democrat-controlled Congress.
"Despite the fact that scientific data underlying the studies of global warming appear to have been manipulated to produce an intended outcome, EPA officials disregarded the contaminated science, calling it little more than a 'blip on the history of this process.'
"It is becoming increasingly obvious that the EPA is more interested in grabbing power over our entire country than in getting the science and the answer right."
The price could be steep for both industry and consumers. The EPA finding clears the way for rules that eventually could force the sale of more fuel-efficient vehicles and require 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 probably would rise, too -- though Monday's finding will have no immediate impact because regulations have yet to be written. Supporters of separate legislation in Congress argue they could craft measures that would mitigate some of those costs.
Environmentalists hailed the EPA announcement as a clear indication the U.S. will take steps to attack climate change even if Congress fails to act. And they welcomed the timing of the declaration, saying it will help the Obama administration convince delegates at the international climate talks that the U.S. is serious about addressing the problem.
But business groups said regulating carbon emissions through the EPA under existing clean-air law would put new economic burdens on manufacturers, cost jobs 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.
The EPA signaled in April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments for formal rulemaking.
That marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had refused to issue the finding, despite a conclusion by EPA scientists that it was warranted.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Monday, "There are no more excuses for delaying."
The so-called endangerment analysis from global warming had been under consideration at the agency for three years, she said. After the official finding, she said, the agency is now "obligated to make reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse pollutants under the Clean Air Act."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama "still believes the best way to move forward is through the legislative process" -- something Obama has expressed on many times as he has pressed Congress to shift the nation's energy priorities away from fossil fuels and to reduce climate-changing pollution.
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 fossil fuels -- should be reduced, if not by Congress then by the agency responsible for enforcing air pollution.
She rejected claims by climate 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.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a lead author of a climate bill before the Senate, said of the finding: "This is a clear message to Copenhagen of the Obama administration's commitments to address global climate change. ... The message to Congress is crystal clear: 'Get moving.'ââ"
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also a co-author, said, "The Senate has a duty to act."
Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the Clean Air Act, saying it is less flexible and more costly than the cap-and-trade legislation being considered by Congress.
Any regulations from the EPA are certain to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.
"Such regulations would be intrusive, inefficient and excessively costly, chill job growth and delay business expansion," argued Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, which also has been critical of the climate legislation before Congress.
"The Clean Air Act can complement legislation," Jackson said.
In fact, if Congress were to cap greenhouse-gas emissions, the EPA probably would be given the responsibility of implementing the law.
The EPA's involvement in reducing climate-changing pollution, stems from a 2007 Supreme Court decision that declared carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act. But the court said the EPA would have to determine if these pollutants pose a danger to public health and welfare before it could regulate them.
Monday, the EPA did so determine.