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EPA Proposes to Dismantle Clean Air Act

Guest Virginia Cramer

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Guest Virginia Cramer

Against the advice of its own scientific advisors, the EPA today set new ozone standards which, while an improvement over the existing standard, still favors polluting industries over public health.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson dismissed his own agency's findings that greenhouse gases threaten the public.


Smog, one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, comes from sources like coal-fired power plants and automobiles and is harmful to human health even at very low levels. Smog can cause a wide range of health problems, including asthma, permanent lung damage and even premature death. Scientists have compared exposure to smog pollution as getting sunburn on the lungs.


In response Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Program, issued the following statement.


"Smog doesn't just ruin your view; it poses serious health risks, especially to children and senior citizens. Study after study shows that to protect public health we need to significantly lower the amount of smog in our air. EPA's new smog standard does not go far enough to protect public health. We know that smog can still cause serious harm at levels below this standard.


"Almost half of all Americans live in areas with unsafe levels of smog, yet the EPA has failed to take appropriate protective action. It has ignored the advice of the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and even the unanimous recommendation of its own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. Once again the EPA has put industry before public health, and our communities will pay the price.


"Instead of upholding the Clean Air Act, the EPA is proposing to dismantle it. Congress should ignore the recommendations made in the dying days of the Bush administration to undermine the public health basis of the clean air act."

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Guest Senator John Kerry

On April 2, 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts (and other petitioners), finding that the EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases. This historic opinion has major implications for national and local climate change policy -- not only does it open the door to regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, but is also likely to prompt action in Congress to pass comprehensive federal climate change legislation.


Yet despite the court ruling which ordered the agency to reconsider its refusal to limit emissions from new cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act, there has been no further action. Coakley has therefore filed a petition requiring the EPA to comply with the court order, hoping to force the administration to do their job.


“Massachusetts and other states have stepped up to the plate to try to protect our environment from the failed policies of the Bush Administration, which has consistently failed to take the countless scientific warnings about greenhouse gas emissions seriously. The Supreme Court’s ruling was loud and clear. The agency received their marching orders - determine whether greenhouse gases are threatening human health and the environment and regulate them. Yet the Bush Administration has repeatedly refused to act,” said Senator Kerry. “Attorney General Coakely has shown the foresight and the leadership that the people of Massachusetts deserve. Our state has led the way for the nation and we will keep fighting until a serious solution to climate change is enacted.”

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Guest LAW_*
Air pollution levels across the United States are at an all time low and our nation’s air quality continues to improve - U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe


Eighteen states sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and trucks, one year after the Supreme Court ruled that the agency had the power to do so.


The suit seeks EPA's response to the high court's April 2, 2007, ruling, a landmark decision seen as a sharp defeat for the Bush administration's policy on climate change.


While acknowledging the reality of human-caused global warming, the administration has opposed across-the-board limits on carbon emissions that make the problem worse.


Carbon Monoxide (CO) Standards


The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set national air quality standards for carbon monoxide and five other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment (the other pollutants are ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and lead). The law also requires EPA to periodically review the standards to ensure that they provide adequate health and environmental protection, and to update those standards as necessary.


The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.

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Guest Amie Breton

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office along with Attorneys General from 17 states, the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, the City Solicitor of Baltimore, and 13 environmental advocacy groups have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to respond to last year’s landmark ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. That ruling, which the U.S. Supreme Court issued exactly one year ago today, required the EPA to make a decision on whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act. A year later, the EPA has not issued a decision. Today’s court filing, known as a Petition for Mandamus, requests an order requiring the EPA to act within 60 days.


“Once again the EPA has forced our hand, which has resulted in our taking this extraordinary measure to fight the dangers of climate change,” said Attorney General Coakley. “As the EPA itself has acknowledged, last year’s Supreme Court ruling requires it to determine whether greenhouse gases are endangering public health or welfare, and if so to begin regulating them. The EPA’s failure to act in the face of these incontestable dangers is a shameful dereliction of duty.”


In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that – contrary to the agency’s claim – the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Court also declared that the agency could not refuse to exercise that authority based on the agency’s policy preferences. Instead, the EPA would have to decide, based on scientific information, whether it believed that greenhouse gas emissions were posing dangers to public health or welfare.


According to the petition, after last year’s ruling, the EPA publicly made clear its belief that greenhouse gases were in fact endangering public health or welfare. Once the EPA comes to that judgment, it must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. On multiple occasions, the agency promised that it would respond to the Supreme Court’s opinion by issuing an endangerment determination and draft motor vehicle emission standards by the end of last year.


When it recently decided whether California could set its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, the EPA issued detailed findings about the widespread harms that greenhouse gases are causing. For example, the Administrator specifically found that “evere heat waves are projected to intensify in magnitude and duration over portions of the U.S. where these events already occur, with likely increases in mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly, young, and frail.” The EPA denied California’s request only on the grounds that the many severe harms that California faced would also afflict other states across the country.


The petition further asserts that the EPA has already prepared an endangerment determination. A Congressional investigation conducted by Congressman Henry Waxman confirmed that the EPA in fact sent its draft endangerment determination and proposed regulations to the Office of Management & Budget in December 2007. According to the petition, an investigation conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform established that consistent with its announced schedule, the EPA implemented its internal process of drafting an affirmative endangerment determination during the Fall of 2007.


The EPA has now declined to issue that proposed endangerment determination, and it last week said that it would delay responding to the Supreme Court’s opinion until after it conducts a lengthy public comment period later this year to examine policy issues raised by regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.


Joining Massachusetts in today’s Petition for Mandamus are: the states of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, the City of New York, and the Mayor and City Council for Baltimore, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Advocates, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Center for Technological Assessment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. All of these parties were either petitioners in Massachusetts v. EPA, or joined amicus briefs in support of the petitioners.


This matter is being handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General James R. Milkey, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, who argued the case before the Supreme Court in November 2006, and Assistant Attorneys General William L. Pardee and Carol Iancu.



Amie Breton

(617) 727-2543

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