So We’re Endangered by GHGs: Now What?

As anyone not hiding under a rock has by now probably realized, EPA officially announced Monday that it has concluded that GHG from human activity threaten public health and the environment. Since the announcement was not exactly a surprise, the question remains what impact it will have.

In the short run, the timing certainly seems intended to coincide with the Copenhagen talks and help to demonstrate to other nations that the U.S. is taking concrete steps to address climate change. We’ll see shortly how successful the endangerment finding is in that respect.

Since I spend most of my time down in the trenches, I’m more concerned with the impact of the endangerment finding on the domestic front. There are really three fronts here:

Litigation – If there was any suspense regarding whether anyone would challenge the endangerment finding, such suspense was quickly relieved by an announcement from the Competitive Enterprise Institute that it would indeed sue. CEI’s press release stated that the global warming “models are about to sink under the growing weight of evidence that they are fabrications.” Uphill battle barely begins to describe the likelihood that CEI wins that case.

Prospects for Cap-and-Trade Legislation – Notwithstanding Administrator Jackson’s protestations to the contrary, it’s hard not to see the announcement as a further prod to Congress to get moving, particularly since the Administration keeps saying that it would prefer enactment of a cap-and-trade bill. Even so, however, some members of Congress indicated that the announcement would have little impact, because the endangerment finding was expected and thus adds little new.

EPA Development of Regulations – EPA is moving forward with regulatory development, though Administrator Jackson gave no time line for when stationary source regulations would be promulgated. There was an indication that EPA would issue BACT guidance in advance of issuing NSR regulations. Notwithstanding the promise of BACT guidance, it appears that states are not ready for the brave new world of using the NSR program to regulate GHGs. ClimateWire reported that Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, believes that states will have hard time getting ready to process stationary source permits by March.

I actually found the biggest take-away from the announcement to be the Administrator’s statement that she wanted EPA regulations that would be complementary to new legislation. "I don’t believe this is an either-or proposition," ClimateWire reported her saying. 


I thought that the deal had always been that legislation would substitute for regulation under the existing CAA. Otherwise, what do the administration’s statements that it would prefer legislation to regulation mean?   I’m having difficulty imagining a world with both a cap-and-trade program and NSR regulation of GHGs.

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