In an effort to goose Congress into moving on climate-change legislation, the Obama administration this afternoon announced it would use the Clean Air Act to crack down on coal-fired power plants, refineries and other big producers of greenhouse gases.
I just got off a telepresser with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Adminstrator Lisa Jackson. She repeatedly emphasized that President Obama sees this as part and parcel of his plan to rescue the economy with a green-jobs program:
We will not have a solution that doesn’ to work for the economy.
She held the press conference after making a speech in Los Angeles, citing California’s green-energy jobs:
Gov. Schwarzenegger just said the clean energy econony has grown at 10 times the rate of other jobs (in California.) This state is actually an example of what innovation in the clean energy economy can bring. … We believe this will actually be a jobs revolution.
The idea of using the Clean Air Act to require greenhouse gas polluters to use the “best available control technology” is far from new. The Bush administration lost a court case that set this all up, but Obama’s held back on pushing forward for several reasons.
One is that the Clean Air Act really wasn’t designed to deal with greenhouse gases. Jackson put on her game face today and said the moves the agency is proposing are just like all the other times it has used the Clean Air Act to regulate pollutants.
But she also repeatedly said she and the president want Congress to act. Climate-change legislation has stalled while Congress wrestles with the health-care impasse, but adminstration officials have been making noises lately to the effect that both really need to be dealt with very soon.
Of course, on the global-warming front that’s because of the big global meeting on a new climate-change treaty to be held in Copenhagen in December.
In EPA’s press release, Jackson emphasized that it’s the big factories and power plants EPA is taking aim at, not the tool and die shop on the corner:
By using the power and authority of the Clean Air Act, we can begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitting facilities without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the vast majority of our economy
In fact, though, making a real dent in greenhouse gas production is going to require effort across the economy. But, as Paul Krugman pointed out this week, it needn’t bankrupt the economy by any means.
The rules proposed today would apply to businesses that annually produce at least 25,000 tons of greenhouse gasses — mainly carbon dioxide — and EPA says are responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like factories and refineries. Smaller facilities emit the other 30 percent or so.
The EPA is moving separately to control emissions from the transportation sector, which amounts to something like 30 percent of the overall emissions.
— Robert McClure