U.S. EPA says it Won't Regulate
by Chris Baltimore
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration denied a petition on Thursday by three environmental groups to declare carbon dioxide spewed by automobiles as a pollutant, saying it has no authority over emissions linked to global warming.
The Environmental Protection Agency said Congress did not give it the power to declare carbon dioxide from autos as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The heat-trapping gases have been linked to rising Earth temperatures by many scientists.
"Congress must provide us with clear legal authority before we can take regulatory action to address a fundamental issue such as climate change," EPA Assistant Administrator Jeff Holmstead said in a statement.
The statement overturned a determination by the Clinton-era EPA that the agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide.
The International Center for Technology Assessment, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace filed a lawsuit against EPA in December 2002 to force the agency to rule on the issue. At least one of the groups said it will appeal the decision.
Environmental groups called the EPA decision another attempt by the White House to undermine public health.
"The Bush administration is again ducking its legal and moral responsibility to address global warming," said David Bookbinder, a Sierra Club lawyer.
Passenger cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs account for 20 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, with coal-burning power plants responsible for 40 percent.
U.S. industry applauded the administration's move. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it will prevent energy shortages and future rationing because of supply restrictions.
"This is a broad sweep; they're taking (carbon dioxide) off the table," said Bill Kovacs, a chamber of commerce vice president.
The administration's move puts greenhouse gas standards squarely on the shoulders of Congress.
The Senate is set to consider this fall legislation proposed by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman to put a cap on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. McCain has conceded that the measure is unlikely to pass.
President George W. Bush angered green groups and the European Union after he withdrew the United States from the international Kyoto treaty that aims to reduce global warming emissions mostly among industrialized countries.
Instead, the administration is taking on climate change through voluntary industry measures meant to cut greenhouse gas intensity — or emissions per unit of economic growth — by 18 percent over a decade.
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