EPA's Climate Announcement is Most Significant Yet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized its proposed finding that carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations, setting the stage for regulating the pollutants under the Clean Air Act.  The landmark announcement comes as world leaders kick off two weeks of negotiations in Copenhagen on a global climate treaty.

“This is the most significant step the federal government has taken on global warming.  The Clean Air Act is tried and true.  It has a nearly 40-year track record of cost-effectively cutting dangerous pollution to protect our health and environment.  EPA can now put this proven law to work as one critical tool in the fight against global warming,” said Eric Nost, fellow at Environment Iowa.

More than two and a half years ago, the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to determine if global warming pollution threatens public health or welfare – a conclusion supported by a worldwide scientific consensus.  Today’s action puts EPA on track to take long-overdue steps to reduce global warming pollution from cars, coal-fired power plants, and other large pollution sources under the Clean Air Act.

The announcement comes nearly a year after proposals to build new coal-fired power plants in Marshalltown and Waterloo were canceled.  The plants would have emitted millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year.

“The EPA's decision is definitely the next step in confronting Iowa's contribution to global warming. The Senate also must act to set overall pollution-reduction goals and to accelerate the move to clean energy, but it’s up to EPA to crack down on pollution from cars and mega industrial polluters like the state's fleet of aging and inefficient coal-plants.  By improving energy efficiency and transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the U.S. and Iowa can both cut pollution and create new jobs,” said Nost.

“We applaud President Obama and EPA Administrator Jackson for complying with the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision and embracing the basic facts on global warming that scientists around the world have acknowledged for years,” concluded Nost.

The following is the timeline leading up to today’s decision:

  • 1999: EPA was first petitioned to regulate global warming pollutants from new cars and light trucks under the Clean Air Act.
  • 2003: The Bush EPA denied the petition.
  • April 2007: The Supreme Court found, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that global warming pollutants are pollutants as defined by the Clean Air Act, and held that EPA mustdetermine whether these pollutants from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
  • December 2007: The EPA prepared a proposal finding that global warming pollutants endanger public welfare, but the Bush White House did not allow the proposal to be released.
  • April 2009: The EPA released its proposed finding, which the agency is finalizing today.


Environment Iowa is a citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization that works to protect the state's clean air, clean water, and open spaces.

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