In following with the Supreme Court decision Massachusetts v. EPA handed down in April of 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed that greenhouse gases are air pollutants, under the Clean Air Act, that instigate climate change and thus endanger health and public welfare. Under this finding, the EPA is poised to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from new cars at the very least, and likely power plants as well. Regulations are more likely to come from legislative action, but either way regulations would take months, if not years to implement.
Notable in the statement released from the EPA today is an environmental-justice emphasis:
Administrator [Lisa] Jackson also took into account the disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone, and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few sources.
This is noteworthy for its inclusion of otherwise marginalized populations as it is for its exclusion of a reference to "people of color" in its listing of the disproportionately impacted. In a statement released by the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change earlier this year, the issue of "climate justice" was addressed as such:
Vulnerable communities, even in the most prosperous nations, will be the first and worst hit, as has been confirmed by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the U.S. context this includes communities-of-color, Indigenous Peoples, and low-income communities that are socioeconomically disadvantaged, disproportionately burdened by poor environmental quality and are least able to adapt.
In my interview with Jackson last month, the EPA administrator shared that she was very much in tune with their concerns, saying, "one of the things the environmental-justice community is very vocal on is climate change and how best not to be left out of those discussions. So we're talking about it. My first actions are not to look specifically at the Executive Order [12898 on environmental justice] but to look at EJ's home within the EPA to determine how best to elevate its status and to make sure it's part of the dialogue."
Meanwhile, I blogged Tuesday about industries' trepidations about the coming endangerment finding here. The next steps will be a 60-day public comment period, when written comments can be published in the Federal Register. Instructions for doing so can be found here. In May, there will be two public hearings. The first will be held May 18, 2009, at the EPA's new offices in the state-of-the-art, LEED-certified Potomac Yard Conference Center in Arlington. The second will be held May 21 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, Washington.
-- Brentin Mock