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EPA Sidesteps Regulating Greenhouse Gases

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday delayed making a decision about whether human health and welfare are being harmed by greenhouse gas pollution. In a federal notice, the agency instead called for more public comment, essentially bumping the decision to the next administration.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The fight has been brewing throughout President Bush's term: Should the federal government create new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

    A number of states and environmental groups brought the Bush administration to court to force its hand. In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA did have the authority to issue new rules, if it determined that emissions were harmful to people's health.

    But today the EPA announced it would not do so before the end of the president's term.

    For more on this decision and what's behind it, we turn to Dina Cappiello. She covers energy and the environment for the Associated Press.

    And, Dina, the Supreme Court said they should do it. The EPA's own scientists said they should do it. How did the EPA administrator explain why the agency has decided not to regulate greenhouse gasses?

  • DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press:

    Well, the agency basically said that the tools that they have — the Clean Air Act, primarily — is not going to work for this problem. It's inadequate. He called it "ill-suited" to address greenhouse gasses. And they just felt they needed new tools and said Congress needs to act and do something about the problem.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    So when he says "new tools," he means that the legislative branch should pass a law, rather than the EPA issuing a ruling?

  • DINA CAPPIELLO:

    Absolutely. He referred to it in a conference call with reporters as putting a square peg in a round hole. Regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is a totally different ballgame than what the Clean Air Act has been used for previously, which is sulfur dioxide with acid rain, nitrous dioxide for smog.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Has there been conflict inside the EPA and between the EPA and the White House?

  • DINA CAPPIELLO:

    Absolutely, and that was definitely not settled today. I mean, basically what the EPA did today is they released what they call an advanced notice of proposed rule-making. This is the first step in a very lengthy process to get to a final rule.

    And that basically was what we saw earlier this month and in May and what the staff put out. But then on top of that, they basically put heavy criticisms from not only the White House, but the Agricultural Department, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department, and the Energy Department.

    And so they kind of gave a mixed message, saying, "Our staff said this, but we really don't feel we want to do that today."

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