This is a big deal: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just issued a proposed finding that climate-warming emissions pose a threat to public health and welfare.
This is actually the culmination of a process that began under the Bush administration:
President Obama’s EPA inherited the global warming review following an April 2007 Supreme Court decision that ordered the Bush administration to reconsider whether greenhouse gas emissions are pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
EPA’s finding just a first step, but it’s an important one, since it signals that the agency could be starting down the path towards putting some real limits on climate-warming emissions. And action by a federal agency could ratchet up the pressure on Congress to take action: no doubt, they’ll want to put their stamp on climate policy, independent of what EPA staffers think is best.
And this increased pressure on Congress, in turn, amps up the pressure on state legislators to take action sooner rather than later. That’s especially true, since the states that are farthest along in designing smart climate policy have every reason to get a stake in the ground before the coal-heavy states start trying to tilt a national program in their favor.
I don’ t know if EPA’s action is a game-changer, really, since it was long expected. But even though it’s just a preliminary finding on a somewhat technical matter, the political repercussions could be far-reaching. Stay tuned.