Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Endangerment is my middle name

Posted by Danny Morris on December 9, 2009

This post originally appeared on Weathervane, RFF’s climate policy blog.

COPENHAGEN — If the old adage I just made up, “A party without someone from the Environmental Protection Agency is not a party,” is true, then Copenhagen officially became a party today. The cavalcade of Obama administration officials kicked off today when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson delivered a ‘this is where we stand’ speech in the U.S. Center at the COP meeting. Jackson summarized many of the important actions the administration has taken since the beginning of 2009, highlighting:

  • $80 billion from the stimulus package spent on renewable energy and smart grid projects
  • EPA’s Energy Star program for household appliances
  • CAFE standards of 35.5 mpg starting in 2016
  • A new national greenhouse gas registry for large emitters, covering 85 percent of U.S. emissions
  • An executive order from the president requiring all government agencies to adopt emissions reduction standards by 2020, improve their energy efficiency, and reduce fuel use.

Now, that’s all well and good, but there was another issue in which people were keenly interested. That would be the announcement Monday that the EPA finds greenhouse gases are a threat to the public health and can be regulated by the Clean Air Act. Jackson said the announcement was the latest in a chain of events set of by the Supreme Court ruling on Massachusetts vs. EPA, which gave the agency the authority to regulate CO2 and other GHGs as pollutants. By finalizing the ‘endangerment’ finding, she asserted that Clean Air Act allows EPA to take reasonable and common sense steps to reduce pollutants (emphasis hers).

All in all, not much ground-breaking news in this speech, which is essentially what one would expect from someone trying not to rock the boat before the boss shows up. She avoided speaking about the negotiations whenever possible, and repeated that actions under the CAA will be reasonable and common sense.

One interesting, slightly off-script response occurred when she was asked about Exxon’s criticisms of CAA regulation. Jackson said that you can’t call the CAA not transparent and that it can provide the clear signal businesses are hoping legislation will give in the form of a price on CO2. One could call her comment not transparent, as it was unclear whether she meant the CAA sends businesses a clear signal with a price signal or it just sends a clear signal to businesses that they will be regulated. But, as Jackson mentioned in a later question, the EPA tends to think in terms of who is going to sue them and why, so the answers will come regardless eventually.

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One Response to “Endangerment is my middle name”

  1. Great looking Blog! Found it through Bing. Just as an FYI, it didnt display right when I opened it in the Opera Interet Browser.

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