Obama administration officials claim that the EPA announcement and the opening of the Copenhagen Climate Conference are "coincidental."Except that the administration knew when the conference was starting so could have chosen to hold the announcement. Not choosing to wait is a pretty good definition of “not a coincidence.” However, the EPA’s announcement has been long expected – and dreaded in some quarters – and identifies six gases for regulation:
The Obama administration had signaled its intent to issue an endangerment finding for carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) since taking office in January. Ms. Jackson announced a proposed finding in April and has since taken steps to draft the rules needed to back it up.And that’s what happened yesterday.
Jeff Holmstead, head of air policy at the E.P.A. under the administration of George W. Bush and now an industry lobbyist, said the finding was mainly symbolic.The EPA acted because the Supreme Court essentially demanded it in 2007. There was a first stab at it then, but the Bush administration would not allow EPA to release its findings.
“It does not have any immediate effect and does not impose any regulations or requirements on anyone,” he said. “Today’s announcement comes as no surprise and is clearly designed to set the stage for the Copenhagen conference.”
Holmstead is exaggerating that the EPA has not indicated what the rulemaking might include. Let EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson tell you:
Earlier this year, EPA established this country’s first … nationwide greenhouse gas emissions reporting system. Next month, large emitters in the U.S. will begin working with EPA to monitor their emissions. Beginning in 2011, large emitters will … submit publicly available information that will allow us to meaningfully track greenhouse gas emissions over time.That sounds like a plan. We don’t quite understand how facilities can incorporate anything before the greenhouse gas emission figures go public in 2011 – presumably when they expect to have the bugs worked out - but let’s put that to the side for now.
And starting next spring, large emitting facilities will be required to incorporate the best available methods for controlling greenhouse gas emissions when they plan to construct or expand.
Whatever else is true, announcing the inevitable clears the deck on a long simmering issue and indicates to industry that something will happen to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, whether Congress passes climate change legislation or not. That means there are two paths forward. And no fork in the road.
And if this was or wasn’t a coincidence, how did it go over in Copenhagen?
“This is very significant in the sense that if (…) the Senate fails to adopt legislation (on emissions), then the administration will have the authority to regulate,” Yvo de Boer, head of the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), comments, according to Reuters.As you’d expect from de Boer, that’s pretty diplomatic. We might have to wait until the President’s trip next week to get a better reading on this.
We noticed in the comments that we were dinged for failing to mention Climategate, the emails and files from Britain’s University of East Anglia that were put on the internet – we read that they were “stolen” but might also be a whistle blowing effort, which we might consider stealing with an asterisk. We just don’t know for sure.
However, like email in general, the posted material generates enough ambiguity to make it most useful as a Rorschach test. We haven’t seen anyone on either side of the global warming debate change their minds based on this email, which indicates that there’s nothing there compelling enough to change minds. (We admit we don’t like efforts to keep raw data proprietary, especially for no good reason. Information is better free.)
But there are some investigations going on. See here for a little more on that. Let’s wait for the results and then let’s choose sabers or pistols.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson