Washington, D.C. – Dozens of national and grassroots environmental organizations led by Food & Water Watch filed a petition today with the EPA, calling on the agency to regulate greenhouse gases as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) under section 112 of the Clean Air Act. This section of the law requires that pollutants threatening the environment or public health be strictly regulated. Given their proven impact on our rapidly changing climate, greenhouse gases clearly qualify as HAPs. This interpretation of the Clean Air Act would require gases like carbon dioxide and methane to be regulated in a manner similar to asbestos and mercury. For example, this regulatory approach recently required electric utilities to reduce their mercury emissions by 90%.
Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified before Congress this week in defense of his proposal to slash by 90% the budget of the program that tracks greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the Atmospheric Protection Program.
Groups joining in the petition with Food & Water Watch include Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth and WildEarth Guardians.
“Even before Trump, as the planet was heating up and weather disasters were intensifying, the EPA was sitting on its hands and avoiding meaningful climate emissions action. Outrage is growing toward corporations like Exxon that knew for decades the harm their fossil fuel pollution was doing to the planet and its people. But it’s the EPA that has allowed these companies to get away with such malfeasance all these years,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “If the EPA won’t properly enforce the law and regulate greenhouse gasses in a meaningful way, we’ll sue them into compliance.”
Regulating greenhouse gases as HAPs would create strong emission reduction mandates and require polluting facilities to install state-of-the-art emissions control technology. Such a rule would drastically lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions, as it would directly impact industrial emitters like power plants, refineries, chemical plants, municipal landfills and cement production – the source of 70 percent of domestic emissions from stationary sources.
In 2015 the EPA issued the Clean Power Plan, which sought to regulate emissions from the power sector by 32% below 2006 levels by 2030. However, this standard falls far below the degree of regulation that would be required under section 112 of the Clean Air Act. The Trump administration seeks to repeal the Clean Power Plan entirely and replace it with an even weaker emissions rule, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, that even the EPA admits will result in as many as 1400 premature deaths annually, as well as up to 15,000 cases of upper respiratory problems. That rule is in the process of being finalized.
The EPA has 18 months to consider the merits of the petition. If the agency refuses to grant the petition and regulate greenhouse gases as the law requires, petitioners plan on filing a lawsuit in federal court to force the agency to adhere to the stipulations of the Clean Air Act.
Contact: Seth Gladstone - sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 917.363.6615