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Planet Ark World Environment News White House Gets Global Warming 'Endangerment' Proposal

Date: 24-Mar-09
Country: US
Author: Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON - The US Environmental Protection Agency proposed an "endangerment finding" that could designate climate-warming greenhouse pollution a threat to human or environmental health, a White House website showed on Monday.

The proposal, sent to the Obama administration on Friday, could pave the way for US limits on emissions that spur climate change.

"I think it's historic news," said Frank O'Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. "It is going to set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution."

The substance of the proposal was not immediately made public but the White House Office of Management and Budget showed EPA sent a proposed rule for an "Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act."

An endangerment finding is essential for the US government to regulate such climate-warming emissions as carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has the authority to make these regulations if human health is threatened by global warming pollution but no regulations went forward during the Bush administration.

An internal EPA document made public last year showed that the agency's scientists believed greenhouse pollution posed a health threat but no official finding was ever accepted by the Bush White House.

President Barack Obama favours a market-based system that could limit carbon emissions and allow companies that emit more than the limit to trade allowances with those that emit less. Congressional Democrats also favour this kind of cap-and-trade plan to cut emissions.

This is in line with action the EPA took on March 10 by proposing a comprehensive US system for reporting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, a step toward regulating pollutants that spur climate change.

A carbon registry would affect fossil fuel suppliers, automakers and companies that emit at least 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, the EPA said then.

The US government already has statistics on emissions from coal-fired power plants, which also emit carbon dioxide.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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