The Center for Biological Diversity and 350.org Wednesday petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to set national limits for carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act. The petition seeks to have greenhouse gases designated as "criteria" air pollutants and atmospheric CO2 capped at 350 parts per million (ppm), the level many scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
"It’s time to use our strongest existing tool for reducing greenhouse gas pollution–the Clean Air Act. The Act’s provisions should cap carbon pollution at no more than 350 parts per million," said Kassie Siegel, an author of the petition and director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. "For four decades, this law has protected the air we breathe–and it’s done that through a proven, successful system of pollution control that saves lives and creates economic benefits vastly exceeding its costs."
Last week, in advance of the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the Obama administration proposed emissions reduction targets of just 3% below 1990 levels by 2020, far below the cuts of approximately 45% suggested to get back to 350 ppm. The current atmospheric CO2 level is approximately 385 ppm.
The administration argues that its hands are tied by the weak cap-and-trade bills passed by the House of Representatives and under consideration by the Senate. Wednesday’s Clean Air Act petition, however, argues that the Obama administration already possesses the legal tools to achieve deep and rapid greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters consistent with what science demands.
"The science, unfortunately, is all too clear–350 ppm is the most CO2 we can have in the atmosphere if we want a planet ‘similar to the one on which civilization developed.’ Around the world people have rallied around that number, in what CNN called ‘the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history;’ 92 national governments have endorsed it as a target. Now it’s time for the nation that invented environmentalism to use its most progressive set of laws in the same effort," said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
While the Obama administration is moving forward to reduce greenhouse pollution from automobiles and smokestacks under the Clean Air Act, two laudable and critically important steps, the administration to date has failed to implement other important and legally required provisions of the Act.
The petition seeks a national pollution cap for CO2 and other greenhouse pollutants through a central provision of the Clean Air Act requiring EPA to designate "criteria" air pollutants, set national limits for these pollutants to protect public health and welfare, and then help states carry out plans to reduce emissions from major sources to attain or maintain the national standards.
"The Clean Air Act is a bipartisan bill signed by a Republican president. Leading scientists at NASA and around the world say we need to get to 350 ppm. This petition simply asks EPA to do its job as science, the law, and common sense require," said McKibben.
"Rather than perpetually wait for flawed and inadequate new climate legislation before taking meaningful action, the Obama administration can and must use the existing authorities under the Clean Air Act to set a target of 350 parts per million to protect the climate and our future," said Siegel.
The climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as legislation currently pending in the Senate, would eliminate EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to designate greenhouse gases as criteria air pollutants and to set a cap on such emissions.
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Negotiators in the U.S. Senate are nowhere close to writing details of a compromise climate change bill requiring reductions in greenhouse gas pollution, Senator Joseph Lieberman said on Thursday.
Read the Reuters story at the link below.