EPA: Greenhouse Gases are a Public Health Hazard

Scientists say that six greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare.


The Environmental Protection Agency declared today that thorough scientific research has determined six greenhouse gases to pose a significant threat to public health and welfare. "The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate," stated a press release put out by the agency. 

The gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride - are found to threaten human health in the form of increased droughts, flooding, wildfires, sea level rise, intense storms and disruptions of agriculture. Greenhouse gases were also cited as a national security risk due to unrest from a scarcity of resources around the world. The findings must enter a public comment period before the EPA can proceed with regulations.

Here's what people are saying:

 "Where the Bush administration lagged, the Obama administration is now leading.  There is no longer a question of if or even when the U.S. will act on global warming.  We are doing so now," said David Bookbinder, Sierra Club Chief Climate Counsel. "President Obama is taking it to the hoop when it comes to our most pressing problems.  This step will allow the administration to move forward while continuing to work with Congress to pass a strong clean energy jobs and climate plan." -- Sierra Club

“With this step, Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama administration have gone a long way to restore respect for both science and law. The era of defying science and the Supreme Court has ended." --David Doniger, Policy Director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council

"Today's action by EPA should give the Obama administration more ammunition to get Congress to do its job correctly," said Frank O'Donnell, president of environmental group Clean Air Watch. "The Obama administration now has the legal equivalent of a .44 Magnum (firearm). The bullets aren't loaded yet, but they could be." -- Via Reuters

Energy companies, of course, are not happy about this development (Via Grist):

“If you were too comprehensively regulate greenhouse gases under the existing Clean Air Act, that would impose a substantial cost and insufficient flexibility for the regulated community,” said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which lobbies on behalf of power companies like Southern Co. and Duke Energy Corp.

Segal and others representing the industry side suggest that regulation through this system will inevitably lead to regulation of every emission source imaginable. “It would draw in every apartment complex, every hospital, every school, every church. It would transform the Clean Air Act into a major revamping of American society, from small businesses to nonprofits. ... I don’t think the authors of the Clean Air Act ever intended for it to be used in that fashion.”

[EPA Administrator Lisa] Jackson rejected this idea recently, noting, “It’s a myth that we’re at a horrible fork in the road, where the EPA is going to regulate cows, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Huts, and baby bottles.”

 They shouldn't panic yet, says Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal:

For all the bombast of the historic decision, it doesn’t actually give the EPA any extra regulatory authority. In fact, the EPA bent over backward to stress the action it isn’t taking: “The action, if finalized, would not itself impose any requirements on industry or other entities.”


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