- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members yesterday pressed the Environmental Protection Agency to decide quickly whether to regulate carbon dioxide, and also urged quick action on a waiver allowing California to start regulating greenhouse gas.

“Now there is an unmistakable green light to take action,” in the wake of an April 2 ruling by the Supreme Court that instructed the EPA to consider regulation, said committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, California Democrat. “There is no excuse for delay.”

Mrs. Boxer warned EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson against dragging his feet or citing excuses such as China’s refusal to reduce greenhouses gases under the Kyoto global warming treaty.

“We didn’t wait for another country to act before we passed the Clean Air Act,” she said.

She noted that California’s waiver request has been before the EPA for 16 months. “In a few short months this waiver could be in place. I expect action from you today.”

Mr. Johnson said he is taking up California’s request as well as deliberating whether the agency should regulate carbon dioxide, acknowledging that the high court’s decision puts the agency under the gun. But he refused to be held to a timetable.

“The major significance was the Supreme Court defining it as a pollutant,” Mr. Johnson said. “Once defined as a pollutant, then that triggers, or may trigger, parts of the Clean Air Act.

“EPA must determine whether greenhouse gas emissions endanger public heath and welfare based on the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” he said. “For that decision we will move expeditiously, but we will move responsibly.”

Committee Democrats were agitated by his apparent reticence.

“Why has it been so difficult to convince you that your agency should protect the environment?” asked Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat. “Stop denying the impact of global warming.”

But Mr. Johnson was unmoved by the repeated demands for action, other than to say he will update the committee on the EPA’s progress at the end of May.

“I’m not going to be forced into making a snap decision,” he told reporters.

Despite the court decision, many lawmakers and analysts believe the proper sphere for deciding whether to take action on global warming is Congress, not the EPA. Even many environmentalists concede that because of far-reaching environmental and economic impacts, it is the lawmakers’ prerogative.

The Clean Air Act does not deal with the global nature of greenhouse gas emissions and doesn’t clearly address international trading of carbon dioxide allowances or offsets, said James Rogers, chief executive officer of Duke Energy Corp.

“We need amendments under the Clean Air Act in order to have a regulatory regime,” he said.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who once called global warming a hoax, said the EPA should resist calls to regulate carbon dioxide.

“The court’s liberal justices have not only chosen to provide the executive branch with authority it clearly was not granted, but to create a regulatory quagmire in which EPA is granted the authority to regulate carbon dioxide through a statute which clearly was not intended to deal with it,” he said. “The Clean Air Act was never designed to control carbon dioxide.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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