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The Obama administration on Monday sent an ultimatum to the Senate: regulate carbon dioxide this year, or we'll do it for you.
In her response to a missive from coal-state Democrats raising questions about impending regulations of greenhouse-gas emissions, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson for the first time laid out a clear timeline for pending rules from the agency.
Jackson emphasized that the agency is pushing ahead with regulations even as Congress continues to put off debate of a new law. The EPA shares the goal of "addressing greenhouse-gas emissions in sensible ways that are consistent with the call for comprehensive energy and climate legislation," she wrote, but offered a clear dictum that they do intend to regulate come 2011.
Jackson wrote that the agency intends to issue rules for stationary sources by April, and will begin phasing in permit requirements and regulation of greenhouse gases for large stationary sources of pollution beginning next year. For the first half of year, only those sources already required to obtain permits under the Clean Air Act for other pollutants will need to apply for greenhouse gas. Permitting for other major sources will be phased in the second half of 2011. Up until 2013, the agency intends to regulate only sources above 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide, like power plants, factories, and refineries. The agency does not expect to "subject the smallest sources to Clean Air Act permitting ... any sooner than 2016," she wrote.
Jackson also responded to their inquiry about potential impacts of the attempt to block the agency's finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health, noting that doing so would imperil the agreement on automobile emission rules that the Obama administration reached last year with automakers and state governments to create a unified national standard for vehicle emissions. The endangerment finding is a necessary prerequisite to those new rules, which are expected in late March. The deal, worked out after years of legal wrangling between parties, was the Obama administration's first big move in limiting planet-warming emissions, and was notable for its strong industry support.
Jackson's letter probably doesn't provide much comfort to the Senate, where a number of legislators have been hoping to avoid the climate issue altogether this year. But with EPA making it clear that regulations are coming whether they like it or not, senators may be forced to decide whether they are going to get to work on a new law, or block the EPA from doing its job.