The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama’s leadership made a proposed finding last spring that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that endanger public and environmental health. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced this “endangerment finding” on December 7, 2009, giving the administration the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and legally obligate them to do so. Once the endangerment finding goes into effect, any American citizen can press the legal case for administrative action.
President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have repeatedly declared their preference for curbing carbon pollution through legislation rather than executive action since regulating carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act would be straightforward for some sources but more difficult for others. But EPA regulation remains a powerful executive tool that the administration can use should climate legislation fail to pass through Congress. It also provides an avenue for the president to ensure that the United States can meet its international commitments to reduce carbon emissions in the event that Congress does not present a unified bill for him to sign by the time a new international agreement is ready for final approval.
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