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EPA expected to act on CO2 emissions

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(Read caption) A coal-fired power plant in San Juan County, N.M.

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The US Environmental Protection Agency is expected to take its first steps toward regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

In an interview with the Times, Lisa Jackson, the new EPA administrator, said that she has asked her staff to prepare documentation for an "endangerment finding" under the Clean Air Act, to determine whether or not carbon dioxide is a pollutant that poses a threat to public health and welfare. On April 2, 2007, the US Supreme Court found that the agency must make such a determination, a ruling that the Bush administration ignored.

If the EPA issues regulations under the Clean Air Act, the effect would be sweeping, writes the Times's John M. Broder:

The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States’ negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.

But as even ardent environmentalists have pointed out, attempting to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act as it is currently written would be, to put it bluntly, insane. Writing in the online eco-mag Grist, David Roberts notes that the 40-year-old act was never designed to regulate a global pollutant like carbon dioxide.

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