Undaunted by lawsuits challenging its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson maintains the agency's approach to today's environmental issues is the right one.
We have restored the rightful place of science as the first factor in all of our decisions, Jackson said in a March 8 address to the National Press Club in Washington. We have taken long-overdue action on climate change, built on the historic finding that greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health and welfare.
The Environmental Protection Agency based its climate change initiative on its finding in December that six greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations, and therefore need to be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
But, four separate lawsuits filed last month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by the state of Texas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several conservative think tanks, and 12 Republican congressmen and a coalition of 17 associations and businesses, including the National Association of Manufacturers challenged EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources.
Such regulations could trigger new permit requirements on more than 6 million stationary sources, including 200,000 manufacturing facilities, as well as affect the price and availability of feedstocks and fuel for chemicals and plastics companies.
But, Jackson said, there is no need to see a healthy environment as a detriment to a growing economy. As an environmental advocate, Jackson said she has often encountered that misconception.
For 20 years, I've seen meaningful environmental efforts met time and again with predictions of lost jobs and lost revenue, she said. Lobbyists and business journals have done such a good job of engraining it into our way of thinking that many of us believe, sadly, that we must choose between our environment and our economy. I'm here to show you today that the choice between the environment and the economy is indeed a false choice.
Environmental protection can be good for economic growth as it helps to eliminate costly and often deadly diseases that affect our communities and workforce, Jackson argued.
When the air is dirty, or the water is contaminated, and people are getting sick, those kinds of health costs are multiplied by millions of families, Jackson said. And that becomes a burden to small businesses trying to provide health care to their workers.
Under the current EPA plan, regulations and permits for greenhouse gas emissions from new construction or modification of existing facilities will not go into effect until 2011. For the first six months of next year, only sites that already must apply for Clean Air Act permits, as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions, will need to address greenhouse gas emissions as well in permit applications.
EPA has said it does not intend to require smaller facilities, or those emitting less than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually, to obtain permits.
A healthy, clean environment means a competitive U.S., Jackson maintained. A clean environment has helped the U.S. become an economic success and a leader in the world's economy and it will continue to do so in the future, she said.
In the last 30 years, emissions of six dangerous air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain and lead poisoning decreased 54 percent, and, at the same time, gross domestic product grew by 126 percent, she said. That means through innovations, we made huge reductions in air pollution at the same time that more cars went on the road, more power plants went on line and more buildings went up.
Innovation is the sweet spot where our economic and environmental interests meet.
Business leaders and conservationists must create solutions together, since we all want the same things a strong economy and robust job growth, she said.
No one favors higher costs for starting businesses or manufacturing products, she said.
But the answer to the environmental and economic problems we face lies in cooperation: One of the clear answers is abandoning the old disputes and working in partnership on new innovations, she said.
She criticized the efforts of the business community to forestall EPA's current regulatory initiatives. She said industry and its lobbyists are against any changes in regulations just as they were 30 years ago when EPA ordered a phaseout of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in aerosols and refrigeration products, and mandated a switch to catalytic converters to reduce lead emissions from cars.
Most drastically, we are seeing efforts to further delay EPA action to reduce greenhouse gases, said Jackson. Once again alarmists are claiming this will be the death knell of our economy. Once again they are telling us we have to choose: Economy? Or environment?
And this is happening despite the overwhelming science on the dangers of climate change, despite the Supreme Court's 2007 decision that EPA must use the Clean Air Act to reduce the proven threat of greenhouse gases, and despite the fact that leaving this problem for our children to solve is an act of breathtaking negligence, she said.
Jackson discussed possible results of delaying greenhouse gas regulation.
The clean cars program could be put on indefinite hold, leaving American automakers once again facing a patchwork of state standards, she said.
With greenhouse gas initiatives comes incentive to invest in clean energy jobs, she said. Without such incentives to innovate, the U.S. will lag behind its global competitors in clean energy solutions, she said. Climate change is an issue as well, she said.
The economic costs of unchecked climate change will be orders of magnitude higher for the next generation than it would be for us to take action today, she warned.
Instead, she said, we need to capitalize on the growing green marketplace here and around the world. We can't retreat from a rapidly industrialized planet and a global economy. Without protection for the water, air and land that people depend on, we can only go so far.
It is not something we can leave for tomorrow.
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