December 7, 2009

Very good news, I think, on the climate change front. This is an excellent way to sidestep the political process and keep the necessary changes from getting bogged down in the politics:

The Obama administration will formally declare Monday that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to the public's health and welfare, a move that lays the groundwork for an economy-wide carbon cap even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation, sources familiar with the process said.

The move, which Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson will announce at an afternoon press conference, comes as the largest climate change conference in history gets underway in Copenhagen. It will finalize an initial "endangerment finding" by the government in April.

While an EPA spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter, the agency sent out a press advisory that Jackson will make "a significant climate announcement at a press briefing" at 1:15 p.m. at EPA headquarters. Jackson will also speak at the U.N.-sponsored climate conference Wednesday; her address is titled "Taking Action at Home." Obama, who will attend the end of the U.N. talks Dec. 18, has sent a series of recent signals to the international community that the United States will curb its carbon output as part of a new global climate deal.

The endangerment finding stems from a 2007 Supreme Court decision in which the court ordered the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases qualify as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. It could trigger a series of federal regulations affecting polluters, from vehicles to coal-fired power plants.

Businesses argue that such a finding would mean even emitters as small as a mom-and-pop grocery store would be forced to comply with onerous greenhouse gas regulations. The administration has crafted rules that would exempt facilities that emit less than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent annually. But it remains unclear if that exemption would hold up in court.

"An endangerment finding from the EPA could result in a top-down command-and-control regime that will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project," Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. "The devil will be in the details, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure we don't stifle our economic recovery."

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