Wednesday, September 30, 2009

EPA announcement reminds everyone there's a new sheriff

Word that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to use regulations to force power plants and factories to lower greenhouse gas emissions if Congress is unable to agree new legislation to combat global warming should remind everyone that things have changed at the top of the U.S. government. Where a year ago the White House might have looked the other way as major industrial companies, many of them big campaign contributors, stalled legislation in Congress or just ignored their legal and moral obligations to protect the environment, new president Barack Obama has authorized the EPA to restrict greenhouse gas emissions through regulation, according to the New York Times. “We are not going to continue with business as usual,” EPA Administration Lisa Jackson, an Obama appointee, said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “We have the tools and the technology to move forward today, and we are using them.” New rules proposed by EPA would require the 400 largest power plants, including those being built or undergoing extensive renovations, to prove that they were applying the best technology for reducing emissions, the Times said. The new rules, which Jackson said apply only to facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, would affect plants that are responsible for nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. They would not, she said, apply to "every cow and Dunkin' Donuts" in the country, the Times said. The Times also said the proposal was timed to coincide with the introduction of global warming and energy legislation by Democratic senators John Kerry of Massachusets and Barbara Boxer of California, legislation that may prove impossible to pass this year. Obama prefers a legislative approach and is committed to approval of a climate bill this year. But industry groups attacked the EPA proposal, saying it violates the Clean Air Act, and suggesting the regulations could face lengthy court challenges. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have already threatened to sue, the Times said. Other industry groups are working with Congress on a climate bill that would substitute a so-called cap-and-trade system, under which polluters would buy and sell credits, for the EPA regulations.

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