EPA Takes the First Step Toward Federal Regulation of GHGs in Finding that GHGs Are an Endangerment to the Public Health and Welfare

On December 7, 2009, the EPA issued two findings regarding GHGs: (1) GHGs threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations and (2) the combined emissions of the GHGs from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the GHG pollution which threatens public health and welfare. EPA took this action directly in response to the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007). In Massachusetts, the Supreme Court found that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act’s definition of air pollutants and ordered EPA to determine whether or not emissions of GHGs from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.


Although EPA’s findings do not independently impose any requirements on industry or other entities, they pave the way for finalizing EPA’s proposed GHG emissions standards for new cars and trucks sold within the United States, which were jointly proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway and Safety Administration on September 15, 2009. More significantly, EPA’s findings signal to Congress that EPA will regulate GHG emissions even if Congress fails to pass climate change legislation. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson remarked that the “findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform.” Although these findings signify a clear step toward federal regulation of GHG emissions, the final outcome will likely be delayed as the findings are legally challenged in court.

Further information regarding EPA’s findings can be found on EPA’s website.

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