Monday, December 07, 2009

EPA Endangerment Finding Released - Light Trucks Targeted

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from new light-duty vehicles contribute to that threat. Along with the endangerment finding, EPA now has to figure out how it will regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

Center President Norris McDonald participated in the briefing today with Administrator Jackson at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Adminstrator Jackson briefed the press, then stakeholders and announced that she was leaving for Copenhagen immediately after the briefing. EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy answered questions in the Office of Environmental Information Chesapeake Conference Room.

The proposed program covers model years 2012 - 2016 and includes miles per gallon (mpg) requirements under the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. The overall light-duty vehicle fleet would reach 35.5 mpg in model year 2016, if all reductions were made through fuel economy improvements. This increase in fuel economy was authorized by The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (accelerated by President Obama).

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG 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.

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.

EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten 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.

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.

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.

Information on EPA’s findings

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