New directions from the Obama EPA

270In less than a year into its new administration, the Obama White House and its EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have already made quite an imprint on the environmental regulatory landscape.

During his first month in office, President Obama directed EPA to review the action taken by the previous administration in prohibiting California from regulating automobile carbon dioxide emissions. This directive followed the Supreme Court’s ruling under Massachusetts v EPA that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that EPA must regulate it if it is found to cause harm to public health and welfare.

EPA promptly issued a draft endangerment study on April 14, 2009 proposing that CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare. On July 1, 2009, EPA reversed the Bush administration’s decision and allowed California to regulate CO2 from tail pipes.

The Obama EPA is tackling the greenhouse gas issues on two fronts. It is working with Congress to develop new cap-and-trade laws to reduce greenhouse gas while developing its own regulations under the Clean Air Act to regulate it.

On September 30, 2009, Lisa Jackson announced that EPA is proposing new regulation under the Clean Air Act to curb greenhouse gas from industries that emit more than 25,000 tons of CO2 per year. This would bring many plants under the new regulation if it becomes final.

The Obama EPA has also dropped a Bush plan to exempt some 3,500 facilities from reporting chemical releases under the Toxic release Inventory. You can expect to see a few more rule reversals in the future.

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