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EPA should use Clean Air Act to address climate change

11/18/2009
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As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, it is appropriate for the Environmental Protection Agency to use this law for the agency’s most important and challenging task yet: solving climate change. Decades of success using the act to make America’s communities cleaner and safer can serve as a model of how to tackle climate change.

Public Citizen supports the development of strong, science-based regulations to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, oil refineries and other “smokestack” emitters responsible for 70 percent of our nation’s emissions of pollutants that cause climate change. The EPA has emerged as the only arm of the federal government with the credibility to solve climate change, as Congress thus far has produced deeply flawed legislation that provides billions of dollars in financial giveaways to polluters while failing to fix our corporate-controlled energy system, which contributes to unsustainability and pollution.

Most unsettling is the fact that climate legislation passed by the House of Representatives would end the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Public Citizen understands why polluters’ lobbyists have tried to eviscerate the EPA’s authority: Because they know that the agency now is largely shielded from the influence of corporate special interests and can therefore concentrate on formulating the regulatory solutions to climate change based on science, not politics.

As world leaders prepare to meet in Copenhagen next month to discuss how nations can work together to solve climate change, the eyes of the world will look not to Congress, but to the EPA for leadership. Public Citizen strongly supports the agency’s efforts to use the full extent of the Clean Air Act to implement science-based regulations to sharply reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing industrial sources.

Tyson Slocum is the director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

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