Climate Week in Congress and at the EPA

New polls (here, here, and here) show that Americans are eager for Washington to tackle clean energy and global warming.  And next Monday, both the Executive and Legislative Branches will swing into action. 

On Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin a week-long marathon to pass a new clean energy and climate protection law - the American Clean Energy Security Act - under the leadership of Chairmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey.  

Also on Monday, across the Potomac River in Alexandria, the Environmental Protection Agency will hold the first of two public hearings (the other in Seattle on Thursday) on plans to curb global warming pollution under the law we already have, the Clean Air Act. 

In Congress...

After weeks of tough negotiations, Democratic progressives and moderates on the Energy and Commerce Committee have come together on a comprehensive bill that sets new energy efficiency and clean energy standards and caps and cuts the carbon pollution that drives global warming.  Though all the details are not out yet, by the key mid-term date of 2020, the bill will cut heat-trapping emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels.  That's three percent less than Waxman's initial draft, but three percent more than President Obama's proposal from earlier this year.  It will also put billions of dollars into investments in energy efficiency and clean energy, while protecting American consumers and workers.  (We'll post more information on the ACES bill later today and over the weekend.)

The ranking Republican, Joe Barton, vows never to "surrender" and threatens hundreds of amendments.  His substitute plan, unveiled yesterday, won't pass the laugh test, let alone the committee - it just lets emissions keep rising and increases our dependence on fossil fuels.  With hands outstretched to Republican moderates, Waxman's coalition is prepared to press ahead for long hours to pass his bill by Memorial Day.

...and at the EPA

Last month the EPA responded to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling that the air pollution that causes global warming can be curbed under the existing Clean Air Act.  EPA administrator Lisa Jackson issued the long-awaited "endangerment determination" officially recognizing that global warming pollution is a dangerous to our health and the environment, and that heat-trapping emissions from motor vehicles contribute to that pollution.  

The EPA identified the range of serious health effects - let's not mince words:  death, illness, and injury - connected to global warming that are occurring now and expected to worsen in the future, as a result of higher smog levels, killer heat waves, more frequent and severe floods, wildfires, and hurricanes, and the spread of infectious diseases. 

Both the public and the industries that may be regulated will have their chance to comment on the endangerment determination in public hearings next week on Monday in EPA's offices in Alexandria, and on Thursday in Seattle.  Most EPA public hearings are quiet affairs, but given public concern about global warming, expect big crowds for these.

Technically, the EPA's endangerment determination applies directly only to global pollution from motor vehicles, the specific subject of the Supreme Court case.  But the implications are clear for power plants - which emit even more carbon pollution than vehicles - and other big industrial sources of heat-trapping emissions.  We expect EPA soon to issue proposed new national standards for vehicles (as well as to give California the green light on its own standards).  And we'll be asking EPA to follow up fast with action on CO2 from power plants.

At the same time, EPA has the tools to make sure that (despite hyperventilating from the Chamber of Commerce) small operations such as donut shops, barbeques, stores, and apartments have nothing to lose sleep over.

In short, we can take a big bite out of global warming pollution from cars, power plants, and other large sources using the Clean Air Act we have today, and we applaud EPA and the Obama administration for acting.  But we cannot do all that is needed under the current law, and that's why we've joined with the administration and leaders in Congress to pass new clean energy and climate legislation. 

Next week, big steps will be taken to reach both goals.