(CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday officially recognized the health risks of greenhouse gases, which will require the agency to regulate the pollution that contributes to global warming.
Environmentalists praised the Obama administration’s thaw on the issue. “Eight years of scientific and legal denial – our ‘little ice age’ in Washington – are finally over,” wrote David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A decade ago, the EPA under former President Bill Clinton required carbon dioxide to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The Bush administration revoked that determination and refused to apply the Act to vehicle or power plant emissions.
A coalition of states and environmental organizations challenged the Bush administration, leading to the landmark 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which held that carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming must be regulated as pollutants. The Supreme Court ruling also required the agency to make a scientific decision as to whether such emissions are dangerous to health and welfare.
The agency’s peer-reviewed scientific analysis focused on six greenhouse gases, demonstrating their potential impacts through increased flooding, more intense heat waves and wildfires, the rise of sea levels, and harm to wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture.
The agency’s review also pointed out a disproportionate effect upon the poor, and emphasized the national security implications of global warming.
“Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy,” the EPA said in a statement.
Industry advocates also reacted to the finding. A coalition of eight groups promoting free markets published a letter stating that the endangerment finding “will set the stage for an economic train wreck and a constitutional crisis.”
The finding will be subject to a comment period, and may include national new, more stringent vehicle emission standards.