WASHINGTON – The White House is reviewing a report outlining the dangers to health and the environment posed by global warming, which could pave the way to the United States regulating greenhouse gas emissions, officials said.
A draft proposal outlining the dangers posed to public health and welfare by global warming was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In a statement, EPA press secretary Adora Andy said: "The document does not propose any requirements on any sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed finding does not impose any new regulatory burdens on any projects..."
But the proposal, which was leaked to the media last week and of which AFP saw a summary on Monday, uses "the language of the Clean Air Act that triggers the need to regulate emissions from vehicles," John Walke, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defense Council, said
The proposal represents "an important legal and scientific milestone because previously the EPA has refused to make that finding (on dangers to public health and welfare)" in a context that would result in regulation of greenhouse gases, he said.
In the proposal that the White House is currently mulling, the EPA "says the magic words," Walke said.
"They make findings that greenhouse gas emissions not only endanger public welfare -- ecosystems, the environment and the planet at large -- but also make the important link between global warming emissions and how they will affect smog pollution, malaria and other public health problems," he said.
The proposal being reviewed by the White House is the latest step in a long battle triggered by a Supreme Court decision taken during President George W. Bush's second term.
Five out of nine Supreme Court justices ruled in April 2007 that carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
They ordered the EPA to decide if the greenhouse gas endangered public health and welfare and said that if a so-called endangerment finding was made, the agency must draft rules to reduce vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide.
In December 2007, the EPA sent a draft finding to the Bush White House, presenting evidence that CO2 did endanger public welfare.
But the Bush administration failed to acknowledge the report and spent the remainder of its tenure resisting the Supreme Court decision.
"The Bush administration refused for eight years to take action over the greatest crisis of our time and manipulated and ignored science in order to pursue inaction at all costs," said Walke.
"Now, within the first three months of the Obama administration, you have this announcement that they will take global warming seriously and take action to reduce C02 emissions," he said.
In the leaked summary of the new proposal under review by the administration of President Barack Obama, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says she will sign the document by April 16, after which there will be a 60-day public comment period and two public hearings before the proposal is finalized.
Even if the EPA holds to that timeline, it would take a year or longer before regulations to reduce carbon pollution take effect, Walke said.
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