EPA Weighs In on Debate over Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In a move that will no doubt strengthen President Barack Obama’s call for tougher 35.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards, the Environmental Protection Agency has formally proclaimed greenhouse gases to be hazardous pollutants.

The agency’s findings were released in conjunction with the commencement of the United Nations’ international summit on climate change being held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The announcement will likely have a greater impact on manufacturers, oil producing companies, and electric utilities than on the automotive industry.

The EPA’s report states that greenhouse gases “are the primary driver of climate change,” which can result in the more severe and prolonged heat waves and increased ozone pollution that have been linked to a host of respiratory ailments including asthma.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, “The president’s appearance in Copenhagen will carry even more weight because it shows that America is taking this issue very seriously and is moving forward.” Sen. Boxer chairs the Senate Environment Committee.

President Obama is scheduled to make an appearance at the international climate summit on December 18 and is expected to urge developing countries, including India and China to engage in efforts to curtail greenhouse emissions.

Sen. Boxer also said the agency’s findings should increase support for the climate change legislation including a bill that she introduced in the Senate. A similar bill has already been approved by the House.

Some worry, however, that the EPA’s report will lead to additional strains on the economy just as it has begun to show signs of recovery.

The National Association of Manufacturers claims, “The EPA is paving the way to begin regulating carbon emissions across the board, including large stationary sources such as manufacturing plants, hospitals and libraries.” The association also warns that the finding will “hurt manufacturers’ competitiveness.”

Dave McCurdy, who heads the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said, “For seven long years, there was a debate over whether states or the federal government should regulate autos. President Obama’s announcement in May ended that old debate by starting a federal rule-making.”

The announcement McCurdy was referring to was the Obama administration’s proposal that would require automakers to attain fuel efficiency ratings of 35.5 mpg for all cars and light trucks by 2016.

Some states, including California, have already taken the first steps toward making that goal a reality and the EPA is expected to enact new regulations to that end this coming April.

Although not necessarily opposed to the sentiment of the EPA’s report, some in Congress object to the power the agency is apparently assuming. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) said that regulating greenhouse emissions “should be left to Congress.”

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