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April 17, 2009

EPA: Carbon Dioxide Endangers Human Health

This is the weekly post from Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.

(UPDATED with EPA news release) Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases constitute a danger to public health and welfare and are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. This is a significant and historic decision with wide-ranging effects, not the least of which is the regulation of carbon emissions from major polluting industries like coal.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is now obligated to issue rules regulating global warming pollution from all major sources, including cars and coal-fired power plants.  The law specifically states that EPA “shall” (i.e. must, not may) regulate dangerous pollutants once they are found to endanger public health or welfare.

Now there is no longer a question of if or even when the U.S. will act on global warming. Today’s bold action shows that President Obama is following through on its campaign promise to show American leadership on global warming.

This endangerment decision, ordered by the Supreme Court in April 2007 and based upon years of scientific research and analysis, will speed the shift toward the clean energy economy and complement the other elements of President Obama's sweeping clean energy jobs plan.

Right now the U.S. has an opportunity to establish itself as a leader on clean energy. President Obama sees the Big Picture: by shifting away from coal to clean energy, and cracking down on the corporations that pollute the water we drink and the air we breathe, we will create economic prosperity while tackling global warming at the same time.

But we know the coal industry will not going down without a fight.  They are trying hard to preserve the failed status quo. They are fighting to slow America’s transition to a clean energy economy.

We won’t be able to secure a clean energy future unless we address the whole climate and clean energy picture; that means reducing the carbon pollution that causes global warming, cleaning up our existing energy practices and focusing on renewable and low carbon energy sources.

Dirty energy like coal is the fuel of the past. Coal simply does not fit into a clean energy future. We look forward to EPA’s now impending action on global warming pollution.

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