May 2009 – EPA Determines Greenhouse Gases Pose a Threat to Public Health and Welfare

EPA issued a proposed finding today that a mixture of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) – contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health and welfare. The proposed finding was issued following completion of a scientific review ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

Although EPA has indicated that the proposed finding issued today, as well as a final action in the future, does not impose any requirements on industry or other entities, and that an endangerment finding under one provision of the Clean Air Act would not by itself automatically trigger regulation under the entire Act, the Wall Street Journal indicates that:

Unless superseded by congressional action, the EPA finding potentially could lead to a wave of new regulations, putting stricter emissions limits on a wide range of enterprises from power plants and oil refineries to automobiles and cement makers.

Current draft legislation under review by the U.S. House Energy and Environment Subcommittee (The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) proposes a cap and trade system for CO2 and directs EPA to set emission standards on sources that are not covered by the cap and trade system.   However, the draft provides that CO2 and other greenhouse gases may not be regulated as criteria pollutants or hazardous air pollutants on the basis of their effect on global warming. The draft also provides that new source review does not apply to these global warming pollutants. The Wall Street Journal reports that “Reps. Edward J. Markey (D. Mass)…and Jay Inslee (D. Wash) have said the endangerment finding provides the administration a regulatory backstop in the event that a tough climate change bill cannot get past a Senate filibuster.”

According to the Energy and Commerce Committee website, committee consideration of the legislation will be completed by Memorial Day. (

The public comment on EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. EPA also will be holding two public hearings on May 18, 2009 in Arlington, VA, and May 21, 2009, in Seattle, Washington. Advanced registration will be necessary.

EHS Support will continue to monitor the proposed endangerment finding and update you on any changes that will affect your business.

Questions about the proposed endangerment finding can be discussed with Jessica Tierney at 412-779-1094 or

Click here to read about EPA’s Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act.



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