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Dec. 9 2009 - 7:38 am | 38 views | 1 recommendation | 11 comments

Cap and trade will come through Congress, EPA chief says

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 07:  EPA Administrator L...

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

COPENHAGEN–On Monday in Washington, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave President Obama the power to cut greenhouse gas emissions without help from Congress.

Moments ago in Copenhagen, she passed up numerous opportunities to threaten to use that power, saying America’s carbon cap and trade program will come through Congress.

“When we return home we will work closely with our Congress to pass clean energy reform through the Congress,” she said. “President Obama has called for comprehensive clean energy legislation. I join him in calling for comprehensive legislation. This is not an either/or moment, this is a both/and moment.”

On Monday Jackson signed an endangerment finding asserting that carbon dioxide and four other greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health when concentrated in the atmosphere.

The finding empowers the Obama Administration to regulate those gases through the Clean Air Act, which means the president can enact the kind of carbon cap and trade program called for in the Copenhagen talks whether or not Congress cooperates.

Obama could also make more ambitious emissions cuts than Congress has planned, and the modest cuts proposed for the U.S.–about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020–have not played well on the world stage. But Jackson deferred several questions about the possibility of greater cuts by saying she would not comment on anything that could affect the negotiations taking place here.

At the close of her announcement Monday, Jackson said the endangerment finding “means that we arrive at the climate talks in Copenhagen with a clear demonstration of our commitment to facing this global challenge. We hope that today’s announcement serves as another incentive for far-reaching accords in our meetings this week.”

But today she lined up with White House Press Secretary Joe Gibbs, who had said on Monday that it was merely a coincidence that the endangerment finding occurred on the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference.

“The endangerment finding and the work here are separate,” she said. “I’m glad we were able to complete our work and make that statement just before, but that wasn’t our impetus.”

There are “reasonable common-sense acts under the Clean Air Act that can be taken to complement legislative efforts,” Jackson said, but those legislative efforts should take precedence in part because they are less likely to be challenged in court.

“When you work for the EPA you know that anything you do is subject to someone suing you. One of the things about a new law (as opposed to a new EPA regulation) is that it erases some of the likelihood of lawsuits on day one.”

The key text of the endangerment finding:

“The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”

The finding includes a supplementary “Cause or Contribute Finding” that motor vehicles contribute to the problem. That finding motivated the higher fuel efficiency standards enacted by the Obama Administration earlier this year.


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  1. collapse expand

    Somehow, this development stinks of Lieberman. Who/what got to her, and so quickly?
    And thank you, Jeff, for your hard work–four first-hand reports in two days. This must be a trueslant record. And that Russ guy is a first-class stringer.

    • collapse expand

      Nobody got to Lisa Jackson, Osama’s EPA Commissar that quickly. It was a carefully orchestrated coup d’état that started last spring when two career staffers working for the EPA, Alan Carlin and John Davidson were silenced for a report which questioned data used by the EPA. The authors cited studies that show – among other things – declining global temperatures and a changing scientific consensus on weather patterns. (http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/06/26/26greenwire-two-epa-staffers-question-science-behind-clima-89720.html)
      So now we find that while our own elected representatives are debating “cap & trade”, the prevailing thugocracy mentality of our unelected Commissars is to leap frog the democratic process in Copenhagen by proclaiming that that the EPA (under the umbrella protection of the Federal Clean Air Act) has decided that the plant enriching air that we exhale, carbon dioxide, is a pollutant??? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/07/us-climate-carbon-emissions-danger)
      Is there a scientist in the house? Well, Commissar Jackson is a career EPA staffer with a degree in Chemical Engineering. How about someone like Patrick Moore, one of the co-founders of Greenpeace who has real background as a scientist and a PhD. In Ecology. Patrick left Greenpeace in 1986 after the organization decided to support a worldwide ban on chlorine. (You know chlorine, it’s one of the elements in the periodic table. You may dislike) it as much as the EPA dislikes Carbone Dioxide. but it’s here to stay)

      Patrick left because he felt that Greenpeace had “evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas.” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120882720657033391.html)
      Sound familiar? Mr. Moore sums it all up for all, like myself, who are worried that the carefully considered evaluation of Earth Sciences should prevail for the benefit of man and not partisan politics: “We all have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. But that stewardship requires that science, not political agendas, drive our public policy.”

      We could start by listening to impartial, apolitical scientists who know that only bad science would seek to ban the basic elements.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        A lot of people left the 70s radical activist Left. They donned suits and are called neo-cons. They didn’t try to change the system from within, they sought out the money-power that drives capitalism (and hence politics) and waddled right in, styling themselves as intellectuals (can you say elitist?).

        I shouldn’t be surprised that fans of free-market-polluting continue to throw around the myth of Moore’s status with Greenpeace. As if that gives him credibility in the current environmental debates. Just give it up. He is a forestry, farmed-fish & nuclear power PR flack. He is not a scientist. He is an advocate.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    Environmental reporting recruited me 25 years ago—on my first day as a reporter for my college newspaper, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in the regular city trash. Since then I've written hard news for dailies, including the Arizona Republic, and slanty news for alternative weeklies, including Newcity. I've written a column for New Times, stories on the Web for Forecast Earth, essays for PEN International and other magazines. I lived in an idyllic California village nestled among volcanoes and vineyards until my batteries were full of sunshine, and then I returned to my origins on the South Side of Chicago, where hope persists with no illusions about the struggle ahead. I cross the asphalt jungle by bicycle and el, mostly to get to the University of Chicago, where I teach journalism. But what matters more than any of this is a lifelong love for the natural world. We are all born with it, I believe, but some turn away.

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