The House Energy and Commerce Committee held four hearings during 21-24 April 2009 on climate legislation sponsored by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA). The legislation seeks to cut United States greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

More than 60 witnesses have testified before the committee, including heads of federal agencies, industry leaders, think tanks, and university scholars. Although some moderates on the Committee are increasingly expressing concerns that action on climate change could staff the economic recovery and cause additional domestic job loss, Chairman Waxman reportedly remains hopeful that legislation will be reported from the Committee by Memorial Day.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also increased its activities on climate change. Recently, EPA released a proposed finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. The 133-page “endangerment finding” was the agency’s response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA. That decision found that greenhouse gases can be considered air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The Court held that the Administrator must evaluate the science and determine whether or not it conclusively supports the assertion that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles contribute to air pollution and endanger public health.

The 17 April 2009 EPA release contained two distinct findings. First, the atmospheric mix of six key greenhouse gases constitutes the “air pollution” that threatens public health and welfare. Second, the combined emissions of these gases from motor vehicles contribute to climate change. The draft does not include any proposed regulations. However, “it follows President Obama’s call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation,” said EPA Administrator Jackson. Many in Congress have praised the decision, but assert that legislation establishing a cap and trade or other market-based system is desirable.

For more information on EPA’s jeopardy finding, please see the notice published in the Federal Register (http://www.aibs.org/federal-register-resource/20090424.html#010242).

 


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