Jerry Brown (D)
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Buoying the global warming position of California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled Monday that greenhouse gas emissions are a public health danger and contribute to climate change.
The move by the EPA paves the way for emissions regulations under the federal Clean Air Act, which have been called for by several state attorneys general, including Brown.
"Today, EPA announced that greenhouse gases threaten the health and welfare of the American people," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. "We also found that greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat."
The EPA's endangerment finding follows new auto fuel-efficiency standards released by the White House this fall.
"U.S. emissions from on-road vehicles are also greater than the total greenhouse gas emissions from every other individual nation, with the exception of China, Russia, and India," the EPA said.
The endangerment finding deals with six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.
It was issued in response to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gasses fit within the U.S. Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The endangerment finding was needed before the EPA can regulate the greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and factories under federal law.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, hailed the EPA's endangerment finding.
"The endangerment finding released today confirms what we have been told by America's top scientists and leading scientists of the world --that unchecked global warming is perilous to human health and our environment," Boxer said. "It is now clear that if we take our responsibility seriously to protect and defend our people from this threat, the Senate has a duty to act on climate change legislation that includes major components of the work done by the Energy and Environment Committees."
For his part, Brown has said when it comes to enacting regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it's a matter of being safe than sorry.
He said peer-reviewed scientists at leading academic institutions -- including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- have released evidence that the planet is warming.
Enacting emissions standards is a safeguard. He likened the regulations to an insurance policy against catastrophic effects of a warming planet.
"This not about whether it's absolutely going to happen -- because it is -- but might it happen," Brown told a group of civil defense attorneys last month. "What's the risk that your house will burn down? Pretty remote. But I would venture to say everyone in this room has fire insurance."
Brown has filed several lawsuits against local governments seeking to limit greenhouse gas emissions
On the federal level, Brown unsuccessfully asked President George W. Bush's administration to approve California's preemption waiver to enforce its own tailpipe emissions standards, enacted in 2002, which require stricter fuel efficiency requirements in new cars and trucks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, has since granted California's request for a waiver to enforce its legislatively-approved emissions standards, aimed at achieving a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions by 2016.
Brown has not formally entered California's 2010 gubernatorial race, but has formed an exploratory committee, allowing him to raise money for a potential bid.
Running for the GOP nomination to succeed Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is: former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.
Schwarzenegger is unable to seek reelection because of term limits. Because Brown was governor before the term limits law was enacted, he may run again for the office he held three decades ago.