In the absence of action by Congress to address climate change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been taking some modest steps to tackle carbon pollution. This follows the 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court that requires EPA to treat carbon dioxide just like any other pollutant covered by the Clean Air Act.
In 2010, EPA teamed with the Department of Transportation to significantly increase fuel economy standards for model year 2012 to 2016 cars. By 2016, new cars and light trucks must average just over 35 miles per gallon, reducing carbon pollution by nearly 1 billion tons over the lifetime of the vehicles.
This year, EPA has been moving ahead with some very modest steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refineries as well. Together, these programs are likely the biggest national steps to slow the daily outpouring of carbon pollution from our cars, power plants and refineries.
As forward-looking businesses already know, limiting carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases lines up well with steps to improve energy efficiency, save costs, and spur investments in cleaner energy solutions. Moreover, these investments are important to maintain healthy air – as groups like the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association and others will attest – as well as to maintain abundant fresh water.
Unfortunately, some in Congress are now threatening to reverse this progress. On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to consider amendments to a small business bill that would handcuff EPA in its ability to make forward progress on climate change.
One of these amendments would force EPA to take a two-year timeout from fighting carbon pollution while another would block EPA from taking almost any action whatsoever relating to reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases – not only blocking the implementation of sensible standards, but limiting scientific research as well as collaboration with businesses, local communities and American citizens through EnergyStar and other voluntary programs. This amendment would even go so far as to block EPA from posting new information on its website.
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, a bill that is virtually identical to the most extreme Senate amendment passed the Energy and Commerce Committee on March 15th, despite opposition from public health organizations such as the American Lung Association, and may move to a vote in the full House in the coming weeks. Like its Senate counterpart, this bill goes too far.
These types of responses are deeply unwise. Carbon pollution constitutes a slowly building but nearly irreversible threat to the health and well being of communities in the United States and around the world, and the ecosystems on which they depend for food, recreation and other services.
Until Congress acts to provide a comprehensive policy solution to limit greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that the U.S. maintain the progress begun by the EPA to fight carbon pollution. Delaying action will set the U.S. further behind other countries – including China and Brazil – that are speeding ahead to address this global threat.
Don’t let Congress drop the ball on building a clean, healthy and productive future for America. Call your Senator or Member of Congress and tell them you support allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to follow the law and continue its work to reduce carbon pollution.
Eric Haxthausen is director of U.S. climate policy at The Nature Conservancy
Photo by: Flickr user runningtwig (“Smoke ‘Em if you Got ‘Em.”). Used under Creative Commons license.
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