By Frank James
While some critics have accused the Obama Administration of being an extension of its Republican predecessor, especially on foreign policy or the treatment of detainees, it's a harder argument to make in terms of environmental policy.
And in case anyone had any doubts, Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, underscored that difference in her announcement Monday of the administration's decision to declare greenhouse gases a hazard to the population.
She didn't mention the Bush Administration by name. She didn't have to.
An excerpt from her statement Monday afternoon:
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down perhaps the most significant decision ever reached in environmental law. The Court ruled that the Clean Air Act, the landmark 1970 law aimed at protecting our air, is written to include greenhouse gas pollution. That verdict echoed what many scientists, policymakers, and concerned citizens have said for years: there are no more excuses for delay.
Regrettably, there was continued delay. But this administration will not ignore science or the law any longer, nor will we avoid the responsibility we owe to our children and grandchildren. Today, I'm proud to announce that EPA has finalized its endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution, and is now authorized and obligated to take reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
his long-overdue finding cements 2009's place in history as the year when the United States Government began seriously addressing the challenge of greenhouse gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform. In less than 11 months, we have done more to promote clean energy and prevent climate change than happened in the last eight years.
Earlier this year, EPA established this country's first -- and what I believe will be a world-leading -- nationwide greenhouse gas emissions reporting system. Next month, large emitters in the U.S. will begin working with EPA to monitor their emissions. Beginning in 2011, large emitters will -- for the first time -- submit publicly available information that will allow us to meaningfully track greenhouse gas emissions over time. This reporting will also bring to light opportunities to jump-start private investment in energy efficiency and new technologies and products -- saving money, improving bottom lines and growing the economy. And it does all this in a common-sense way -- without putting a burden on small businesses or other critical sectors of our economy.
The EPA's decision that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health allows the agency under the Clean Air Act to impose new rules to govern the emission of greenhouse gases.
Jackson also took a shot at the climate change naysayers:
We know that skeptics have and will continue to try to sow doubts about the science. It's no wonder that many people are confused. But raising doubts -- even in the face of overwhelming evidence -- is a tactic that has been used by defenders of the status quo for years. Those tactics have only served to delay and distract from the real work ahead, namely, growing our clean energy economy and freeing ourselves from foreign oil that endangers our security and our economy.
It's time that we let the science speak for itself. In making this finding, we relied on decades of sound, peer-reviewed, extensively evaluated scientific data. That data came from around the world and from our own U.S. scientists.
Today's action is a step towards enduring, pragmatic solutions to the enormous challenge of climate change. It is a step towards innovation, investment and implementation of technologies that reduce harmful emissions. And it's a step towards green jobs, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and a better future for our children.
House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner saw Monday's EPA announcement as a misguided preamble to what he believes is ahead:
"Today's EPA announcement paves the way for Washington Democrats' 'cap-and-trade' national energy tax, a bureaucratic nightmare that would make households, small businesses and family farms pay higher prices for electricity, gasoline, food and virtually every product made in America. One independent analysis determined that this national energy tax would cost our economy millions of jobs each year for the foreseeable future.
"What's more, the timing of this announcement is yet another indication President Obama is preparing to unilaterally commit the United States to mandatory emissions cuts at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. If the President truly believes these job-killing mandates are in the nation's best interests, he should slow down and first seek the advice and consent of the people's elected representatives.