For Immediate Release,
March 5, 2021
WASHINGTON— The Environmental Protection Agency has reopened consideration of a nationwide greenhouse gas pollution cap under the Clean Air Act, moving Thursday to withdraw the Trump administration’s last-day denial of a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and 350.org.
“By undoing Trump’s denial, the Biden administration has created a chance to enact the most consequential protection we’ve ever had for our climate,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director of the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “When it comes to dealing with rising seas and tinder-box landscapes and helping polluted communities, nothing less will cut it. A national pollution cap would be a climate game-changer.”
The new EPA decision, signed by Acting Administrator Jane Nishida, states, “I am withdrawing the denial of your petition, as the agency did not fully and fairly assess the issues raised by the petition. The EPA intends to further consider the important issues raised by your petition before responding.”
The Center and 350.org petitioned the EPA in 2009 to use its full powers under the Clean Air Act to list greenhouse gas pollution as a “criteria pollutant” and set a nationwide emissions cap in the form of a “National Ambient Air Quality Standard.”
Such a standard 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.
On Trump’s last day in office, then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a letter denying the petition and two others related to greenhouse gas regulations.
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.