EPA holds public meetings on so-called 'Big Polluters' rule
With the Senate caught up in an intense health care debate, it is becoming increasingly likely that the upper chamber will not take up a climate bill for full consideration before the upcoming UN climate talks in Copenhagen, let alone before the end of the year. But the country's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide will start tracking their emission levels on January 1 and begin reporting them to the United States Government if a rule currently being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency wins approval.
Last week, the EPA held public hearings in Washington and Chicago on the proposed rule that would require 10,000 industrial sites and suppliers of petroleum products to submit the data beginning in 2011. The EPA has said the reporting would cover roughly 85 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States linked to global warming.
“The American public, and industry itself, will finally gain critically important knowledge and with this information we can determine how best to reduce those emissions,” Lisa P. Jackson, the agency’s administrator, said in a statement earlier this fall.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA can and should regulate carbon dioxide, yet it hasn't been entirely clear what that regulation would look like. With the EPA moving forward on this Big Polluters rule, that question is at least partially addressed. And like Senator John Kerry's suggestion that CO2 should be treated as a pollution problem the EPA rule would focus on a pollution paradigm, the same paradigm that was used to frame and regulate the environmental problems of the late 1960s and 1970s.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, the Sierra Club--and others using the pollution frame--argue that is appropriate for the EPA to use this law for the agency's challenging task of tackling climate change.
"Like soot, smog and mercury, we should be working to limit the amount of global warming pollution released into our air," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope a last week's hearing in Virginia.
"We support EPA’s decision to efficiently and effectively get us on track toward a cleaner future. The Big Polluters rule, by focusing on the major emitters first, brings the most bang for the buck. It will result in real pollution reductions while spurring the growth of clean energy industries," added Pope.
The EPA will likely move forward with the rule unless they are hemmed-in by language in the House climate bill (Waxman-Markey) that prohibits the EPA from being involved in CO2 regulation. Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen writes at Common Dreams:
"Most unsettling is the fact that climate legislation passed by the House of Representatives would end the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Public Citizen understands why polluters' lobbyists have tried to eviscerate the EPA's authority: Because they know that the agency now is largely shielded from the influence of corporate special interests and can therefore concentrate on formulating the regulatory solutions to climate change based on science, not politics."
The Senate bill currently being considered would, however, allow the EPA to move forward with carbon regulation. The important question is what the final bill that is reconciled out of committee will look like.
Regulation-making can be an excruciatingly long process. So the fact that the EPA held two public hearings to gather input on a new rule that would limit global warming emissions from the nation’s biggest polluters doesn't mean you should expect an EPA final rule to be published in the Federal Register any time soon.
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