Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth applaud the Environmental Protection Agency on its determination that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger public health and welfare. This finding is an important milestone in addressing global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act, following years of denial and inaction on this issue by the Bush administration.
The Clean Air Act is a proven, flexible and efficient tool to reduce air pollution immediately. Issuing regulations to control greenhouse gases will not only protect public health and the environment domestically, but will also enhance opportunities for the United States to participate successfully in the upcoming international climate negotiations.
"The Clean Air Act is our best tool for reducing greenhouse emissions from cars, ships and airplanes," said Matt Vespa, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "For four decades, the Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe, saved thousands of lives and produced economic benefits at least 42 times the cost of regulation. The EPA should immediately implement its effective and efficient mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas pollution."
However, the narrow scope of the endangerment finding - which is limited to motor vehicles and does not propose any regulations - means the EPA must now develop specific solutions to protect public health and the environment. Now that EPA has documented the dangers posed by greenhouse gases, the agency must move quickly to set standards not only for motor vehicles, but also for other significant sources of greenhouse gas pollution, such as marine vessels and aircraft.
"This is a bittersweet moment. We're relieved to have an EPA that recognizes the dangers of carbon dioxide but the clock is ticking. With ocean health declining, we're running out of time to control sources like ships and aircraft that needed to be regulated years ago," said Oceana senior campaign director Jacqueline Savitz.
"We welcome today's recognition that global warming pollution endangers the public, but EPA hasn't proposed action to reduce that danger," said Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth. "EPA must stop dragging its feet and start reducing pollution from ships and aircraft."
In 2007, Earthjustice, on behalf of Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, submitted formal petitions to the EPA, requesting that the agency determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from marine vessels and aircraft endanger public health and welfare, and if so, to issue regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from these sources.
Marine vessels and aircraft are major sources of greenhouse gas pollution. Ships were responsible for five percent of U.S. transportation sector CO2 emissions in 2006 and the EPA has projected that CO2 emissions from marine vessels will double by 2030. Ships are also a significant source of nitrogen oxides and black carbon, accounting for 5.2 percent of total U.S. NOx emissions as of 2007 and 3.6 percent of total U.S. black carbon emissions as of 2002.
The EPA estimates that aircraft engines are responsible for 12 percent of mobile source CO2 emissions and the Federal Aviation Administration projects these emissions to increase 60 percent by 2025. Aircraft also emit other pollutants that contribute to climate change, including nitrogen oxides and black carbon. They are also responsible for other climate-forcing effects, such as the creation of contrails and cirrus clouds.
Dianne Saenz, Oceana, 202.467.1909 or [email protected]
Nick Berning, Friends of the Earth, 202.222.0748 or [email protected]
Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, 415.436.9682, ext. 309 or [email protected]