The article which follows below (and attached as a pdf) is appearing in the current issue of . It examines how the Clean Air Act can be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and why the next president might want to use it to jump start climate action.
Though the Clean Air Act is one of the most successful pieces of environmental legislation in American history, it has been largely neglected as a tool that can help solve the climate crisis. One large reason for this is that the Clean Air Act and the EPA itself have been intentionally handcuffed and muzzled by the Bush administration for the last eight years. In fact, when President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, he was careful to state explicitly that his administration did not consider carbon dioxide to be a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise in Massachusetts v. EPA, and thereby set in motion a process through which legal experts, EPA career staff and policymakers are now examining the question of how best to apply the complex law to the regulation of greenhouse gases. This includes examining how the law could allow for federal oversight of carbon trading nationally without waiting for passage of new legislation.
Last Thursday, based on an interview with Obama's energy advisor. It said:
Barack Obama will classify carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant that can be regulated should he win the presidential election on Nov. 4, opening the way for new rules on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Democratic senator from Illinois will tell the Environmental Protection Agency that it may use the 1990 Clean Air Act to set emissions limits on power plants and manufacturers, his energy adviser, Jason Grumet, said in an interview.
It could prove to be a game-changing strategy that will alter the lawmaking dynamics in Washington DC. The Clean Air Act offers the next president a powerful mechanism for jump-starting action. The attached article examines how and why.
by Michael Northrop* and David Sassoon
Environmental Finance, October 2008
The urgency of the current situation cannot be over-emphasized: the latest scientific research tells us that global warming is accelerating at a rate beyond previous
expectations, and that the window for timely response is shrinking quickly. Despite some political efforts to muddy the waters, there is scientific agreement that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must now be stabilized within seven years or the world will face unpredictable and devastating climate-related catastrophes – far beyond the serious impacts already in evidence globally.
Climate action in the US – at a federal standstill for the last eight years – is expected to finally move forward with the inauguration of a new president in 2009. What preparations can be made now to assure action within the first hundred days? Congress is expected to try to move cap-and-trade legislation again while also addressing related issues through other bills – energy, transportation, economic policy, and conservation. But the key question remains – is there a leadership strategy that the next president can initiate to strengthen the likelihood of success?
The latest science demands a strategy that fulfills two requirements without fail: it must provide a policy pathway that will start to reduce emissions immediately; and it must also provide a political pathway that avoids continued political gridlock.
Relying on a single piece of legislation runs the risk of failing to meet one, or both, of these non-negotiable requirements. It could easily take more than seven years to get a federal carbon trading mechanism up, running and working to stabilize emissions. It is also possible that Congressional compromise will water down cap-and-trade emissions targets and worse, undermine existing state and regional efforts.
|Clean Air Jump Start.web_.pdf||280.07 KB|