WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and 350.org urged the Environmental Protection Agency today to set a nationwide greenhouse gas pollution cap under the Clean Air Act.
Last month the EPA reopened consideration of the measure when it withdrew the Trump administration’s denial of a petition by the two groups, noting that “the agency did not fully and fairly assess the issues raised by the petition.”
In today’s letter, the groups say the urgency of the climate crisis has only grown since they petitioned the agency in 2009 to use its full powers under the Clean Air Act to list greenhouse gases as “criteria pollutants” and set a nationwide emissions cap in the form of a National Ambient Air Quality Standard.
They point to dramatic increases in the amount, diversity and sophistication of evidence that climate change threatens public health and safety. For example, research shows that the warming potential of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, is greater than was understood a decade ago.
“We have such an abundance of evidence of the dangers greenhouse gas pollution poses to human health and survival,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director of the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “Every flood, fire and superstorm reminds us how desperately we need bold EPA action, right now. Creating a climate pollution cap would show the world how serious the Biden administration is about confronting the climate emergency.”
The groups say a national greenhouse gas cap would have a huge impact because it would apply across all sectors of the economy, not just fossil fuel power plants. States would be given flexibility to choose how they cut pollution to meet the national cap.
“The Supreme Court decided years ago that the executive branch can regulate carbon as an air pollutant,” said Natalie Mebane, director of policy at 350.org. “The EPA has a duty to enforce the laws that protect our air, water and climate. The Biden administration has already taken great steps to reduce our carbon emissions, and we call on them to use their full authority to combat the climate crisis."
A nationwide greenhouse gas pollution cap under the Clean Air Act is a central premise of the progressive Climate President action plan and model executive order, spearheaded by the Center and supported by nearly 750 climate and environmental justice groups.
The plan urges President Biden to confront the climate emergency with the full powers that Congress has granted the executive branch under existing laws. It also includes measures to advance environmental and racial justice, including directing all federal agencies to pro-actively “mitigate” — instead of only “identify and address” — disproportionate health and environmental impacts of their programs on communities of color and communities of low wealth.
“The Biden administration has created a chance to enact the most consequential protection we’ve ever had for our climate,” said Golden-Krasner. “The powerful provisions in the Clean Air Act have protected the air we breathe for 50 years. Now it’s time to put them to work protecting our health from the climate emergency.”