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For Immediate Release, July 11, 2008


Kierán Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960 (cell)
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x 302, (951) 961-7972 (cell)

EPA Delays Action on Supreme Court Order to Determine if
Greenhouse Gases "Endanger Public Health or Welfare"

EPA Chief Instead Attacks Clean Air Act

Today's EPA Document Nonetheless Shows Bush Policies
Fall Far Short of Emission Cuts Needed to Reduce Carbon Dioxide Levels
to the Safe Zone of 350 Parts Per Million

Instead of complying with the Supreme Court's order to determine whether greenhouse gases "endanger public health or welfare," the Environmental Protection Agency today punted the decision to the next administration. Rather than explain how it would comply with the Clean Air Act, the administration held an Orwellian press conference to denounce usage of the Clean Air Act to address global warming.

"The Clean Air Act is one of America’s strongest existing tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "What better proof of the Clean Air Act’s effectiveness is there than the Bush administration’s fear of its results? The Clean Air Act has greatly improved the quality of the air we breathe over the past few decades, and its regulations have spurred technological innovation. It is not only illegal, but downright foolish to delay Clean Air Act greenhouse gas regulations.”

On April 2, 2006, the Supreme Court overturned the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles do not qualify as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Finding that greenhouse gases are a pollutant, the court ordered the EPA to determine whether they can “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Such a finding would lead to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

After months of well-publicized intervention by the White House — some of which led to the resignation of EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett — the EPA today released a 588-page response to the Supreme Court. Rather than conclude that greenhouse gases “endanger public health or welfare,” as recommended by the EPA in a December, 2007 draft finding, the administration instead declares war on the Clean Air Act, calling it "outdated" and "ill-suited" to deal with global warming:

One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land…

I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act, an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects, is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.

The EPA document echoes President Bush’s April 16, 2008 Rose Garden speech, which aggressively asserted that the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act should not be used to address the threat of global warming. The president criticized the Supreme Court and lower courts for concluding exactly the opposite. The president's speech was laying the groundwork for a campaign to congressionally gut those laws in order to exclude greenhouse gas and global warming issues. The campaign is in full swing. We saw it on May 14, 2008 when Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne attacked the Endangered Species Act in a press conference announcing the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species. We saw it today in Johnson’s press conference. Indeed, the Washington Post reported yesterday that White House officials blocked EPA from complying with the Supreme Court's order to make an endangerment finding precisely so it could use the opportunity to denounce the Clean Air Act and run a campaign to undermine the law.

Today's Advance Notice of Rulemaking, however, did informatively compare the president's current greenhouse gas emission policy with the goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 450 parts per million as advocated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The graph on page 228 shows the president's plan does not even come close to attaining the safe haven goal. This is particularly alarming since scientists have more recently determined that atmospheric carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm to avoid runaway global warming with catastrophic impacts to humans, wildlife, and ecosystems. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is currently at 385 ppm and will likely reach 550 ppm by mid-century without new regulations. To reduce carbon dioxide to safe levels will require reducing emissions by at least 90 percent and substantially increasing carbon sequestration.

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