From: The Wall Street Journal
Published February 23, 2009 09:48 AM

EPA Set to Move Toward Carbon-Dioxide Regulation

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's climate czar said the Environmental Protection Agency will soon determine that carbon-dioxide emissions represent a danger to the public and propose new rules to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas from a range of industries.

Carol Browner, special adviser to the president on climate change and energy, said in an interview Sunday that the EPA is looking at a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that requires the agency to determine whether carbon dioxide endangers public health or welfare. And the agency "will make an endangerment finding," she said.

"The next step is a notice of proposed rule making" for new regulations on carbon-dioxide emissions, said Ms. Browner, speaking on the sidelines of the National Governors Association meeting in Washington.

Officially recognizing that carbon dioxide is a danger to the public would require the government, under the Clean Air Act, to draw up regulations governing greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, refineries, chemical plants, cement firms, vehicles and any other emitting sectors.

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Administration officials have said they would limit regulation to facilities over a certain size. But legal experts say designating carbon dioxide a public danger could open up any emitters to legal challenge. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have been lobbying the EPA for months against trying to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, warning that such action would lead to costly new regulations affecting not only coal plants and large manufacturers but also schools, apartment buildings and hospitals.

"Once carbon dioxide is regulated, they can no longer contain the Clean Air Act...and it would completely shut the country down," said William Kovacs, a chamber vice president.

Speaking to governors and reporters later Sunday, Ms. Browner said the administration also is seeking to establish a national policy for auto emissions that could mean tougher efficiency mandates for auto makers. The White House said Sunday that the standard would be developed as part of the continuing restructuring negotiations between the government and major auto makers.

Ms. Browner's comments provided the clearest outline to date of the Obama administration's regulatory strategy for tackling global warming. But critics warned that moving too quickly and aggressively could cripple an already ailing economy, and some business groups vowed to step up their fight against the proposed changes.

Some Democratic lawmakers, mainly from states dependent on coal or manufacturing, are also leery of letting the EPA regulate emissions. Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.), a longtime advocate for Michigan's auto makers, has warned of "a glorious mess."

Ms. Browner dismissed criticism that the administration's proposed moves would exacerbate the current recession. She said businesses hoping to invest in carbon-dioxide-mitigation projects need clearer policy direction before investing.

Ms. Browner declined to say when the EPA would act on the endangerment issue, but EPA chief Lisa Jackson has indicated it could be on April 2, the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.

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