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EPA’s Declaration That Greenhouse Gas Emissions Endanger Public Is Long Overdue

April 17, 2009

EPA’s Declaration That Greenhouse Gas Emissions Endanger Public Is Long Overdue

Statement of Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a crucial step today by declaring that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. The long-overdue move will allow the agency to regulate heat-trapping emissions from power plants and automobiles under the Clean Air Act.

As the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, the U.S. needs to assume an international leadership role in addressing climate change, and this move by the EPA does just that.

In Texas, we know a thing or two about heat. We also know a thing or two about energy and how pollution can affect our daily lives. We have known for a long time about the serious threat from climate change and greenhouse gases. The EPA’s declaration codifies this and puts science back in the driver’s seat of American policy.

Climate change is already occurring here and throughout the United States. We see it in our extended droughts that have gripped most of Texas and in the larger, stronger storms that have been hitting our coasts. Warming does not just mean you turn up your air conditioner a little more – it means the spread of tropical disease, extended drought, lower crop yields and increased food prices – all of which fall more squarely on the backs of the economically disadvantaged than anyone else.

Now it is time for Congress to step up. Federal regulation is the big stick that industry fears, but President Obama has said he prefers a cap-and-trade program to come from Congress. Any legislation should meet science-based goals for greenhouse gas reductions to prevent further catastrophic climate disruption. If it does not, today’s finding indicates that the EPA will regulate them.

It is also time to stop building coal plants. Federal regulation of greenhouse gases is coming, and building 87 new coal plants across the U.S. – with 14 of those proposed in Texas – is potentially one of the most expensive forms of electrical generation we can build for our future. We should, at the very least, put the brakes on the coal rush until we know exactly what federal regulation is going to entail.

Note: Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin next week to mark up draft legislation from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.). It is the most prominent bill to regulate greenhouse gases currently being debated in Congress. Democratic Reps. Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez, both of Texas, are members of the committee and are seen as crucial swing votes by many on this bill. Republican Reps. Joe Barton and Michael Burgess, also both of Texas, sit on the committee as well and are generally opposed to such regulation of greenhouse gases.