It’s a sly, behind-the-scenes tour de force, but one that the Obama Administration clearly seems to believe is worth its time and attention. Particularly now that Republicans hold a majority in the House.
We’re talking about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) move toward regulating not only mobile sources of greenhouse gas emissions (automobiles, interstate haulage, as they have long done) but also stationary sources like power plants and factories – something that hasn’t been successfully tried on for size since before the Bush Administration.
And it only makes sense. With the failure of Waxman-Markey (the climate bill), and a new coterie of Republicans eager to deny anthropogenic global warming in favor of a cooler climate philosophy – namely what House Science Committee leader Ralph Hall calls “global freezing” – it seems one side of the aisle is all about opposition.
Fortunately, many U.S. businesses do not agree with the Republican position. Intelligent observers on both sides of the aisle have also noted that it doesn’t make much sense to give the top science spot to a man who doesn’t “get” the science behind climate change. Many U.S. businesses, however, do not agree with the Republican position.
On Jan. 2, the EPA established the first regulations to limit stationary greenhouse gas sources. Small measures, granted, and on a state-by-state basis as individual permits rather than industry-wide, but they will be strongly defended by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in an equally “measured and careful” manner. The only exceptions so far appear to be biomass manufacturers, who are getting a three-year pass.
EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy was quick to point out that the permits were not a carbon cap program, but an emission’s standard. By any name, however, this particular rose is going to smell as sweet.
These enforcements began in gun-shy Texas, where the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality expressed its distress by calling the EPA’s move a federal power grab. Governor Rick Perry said the permits would end up costing the state jobs by “painting a big target on the backs of agriculture and energy producers.”
Moving forward by baby steps – the first state-issued permits affecting as few as 400 facilities – the EPA will gradually, one assumes, consolidate its resources to become the single entity regulating all sources of greenhouse gases. And this is essential, because a 2011 report shows that, even if carbon dioxide emissions are cut to the bone now, the world will still be subject to “cataclysmic climate change.”
Backed up by the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, the EPA under President Obama will continue to mandate permits in an effort to insure that greenhouse gases, which it declared in 2009 to be a threat to human health, are reduced, thus hopefully preventing further devastating climactic change.
The DOJ fully expects challenges to emerge, and is not only ready for them but has already prioritized to meet them, according to Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the DOJ’s environment and natural resources division.
That priority, in case you hadn’t guessed, is “highest.” As well it should be after a year which scientists and researchers alike describe as the warmest in recorded history.
Image credit: Tiberious Gracchus via Flickr
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