Greenwire reported yesterday that EPA plans to issue its endangerment finding on emissions of greenhouses gases, in response to Massachusetts v. EPA, by the end of April. Greenwire also released EPA’s internal presentation regarding its recommendation to the Administrator.
Although EPA’s anticipated decision is not a surprise, it is still noteworthy. Among the highlights:
- The finding will conclude that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health (the proposed endangerment finding that the Bush administration EPA had prepared, but then withdrew, was limited to public welfare issues.
- The finding will apparently note that there are environmental justice implications associated with climate change. This is particularly interesting, given that there is also concern that there are equity issues associated with the likely responses to climate change – Warren Buffett this week described a cap-and-trade plan has as a “regressive tax.”
- EPA’s preferred option at this point is to base the endangerment finding on identifying the entire group of GHG as the “air pollutants” that cause the endangerment. One specific rationale is that doing so will facilitate flexibility in setting standards for these pollutants. In other words, if GHG are grouped together, EPA will be able to propose a regulatory program that will allow netting and offsets among the different GHGs.
Other than the nod to regulatory flexibility provided by grouping GHGs, EPA has not tipped its hand regarding the nature of any regulatory regime for GHGs, let alone when it might be able to propose and finalize such regulations. Doing so remains a gargantuan task.
Moreover, while EPA is clearly committed to addressing this issue, if one believes the statements of Congressional committee chairs to the effect that climate change legislation will get done promptly, there is a certain logic to waiting for such direct legislative authority. On the other hand, fear of what EPA may do remains part of the calculus on Capital Hill, so EPA may decide to move forward aggressively with regulatory development under current Clean Air Act authority simply in order to keep pressure on Congress.
It’s going to be a busy – and interesting – year.