In a major new announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare also explicitly stating that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat. This conclusion by the EPA has been reached after a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments.
Noting that science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity the EPA announced today (12-7-09) that greenhouse gases (GHGs) pose a public health risk. The EPA made two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.
First the EPA has announced a public health endangerment finding that states that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
Secondly in a cause or contribute finding, the Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.
Noting that the increase in GHG levels is the primary driver of climate change which can can lead to hotter, longer heat waves the EPA finding has established a link between these gases and a threat to the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.
The newly announced findings are in response to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. While these two related findings do not themselves impose any requirements on industry or other entities they are a prerequisite to finalizing the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles, which were jointly proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration on September 15, 2009.
“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”
Car & Truck Emissions Are a Major Contributor to Greenhouse Gas Pollution
On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles. This would both reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and increase our average fuel efficiency reducing our nations dependence on foreign oil suppliers.
The Six Greenhouse Gases Covered
EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by scientists in the United States and around the world.
Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns, and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.
President Obama and Administrator Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.
EPA issued the proposed findings in April 2009 and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of the final findings. Click here to read the official EPA published findings.
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