And Here Comes The EPA...

by Bradford Plumer | December 7, 2009

As the Copenhagen climate summit kicks off today, it's noteworthy that the EPA is steaming ahead with its own plan to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday will complete its determination that greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and the environment, paving the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories refineries and other major sources.

The move gives President Obama a significant tool to combat the gases blamed for the heating of the planet even while Congress remains stalled on economy-wide global warming legislation.

The agency finding also will allow Mr. Obama to tell delegates at the United Nations climate change conference that began today in Copenhagen that the United States is moving aggressively to address the problem.

This move would certainly give the Obama administration a stronger negotiating position at Copenhagen: The United States is now more or less committed to curbs on greenhouse gases; it's just a question of what those curbs will look like. As The Wall Street Journal reports, many large businesses, particularly power companies, hate the idea of the EPA issuing its own carbon rules. They'd rather have Congress set up a more flexible cap-and-trade system. (Electric utilities, in particular, were able to shape the House bill more to their liking, and they'd have less luck with EPA regs.) So will those companies start ratcheting up the pressure on lawmakers to pass a climate bill?

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