Pruitt won't kill EPA 'endangerment' finding on climate change

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EPA administrator Scott Pruitt  [photo from 2014]

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [photo from 2014]

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The current EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, does not accept the scientific consensus on human contribution to climate change, though he has given some contradictory statements on that matter.

His views correspond closely to those of his boss, President Donald Trump, who notoriously compared the science to bovine excrement in a tweet and called climate change a hoax created by China to hurt the U.S.

But even Pruitt, it seems, does not plan to challenge a key agency finding on climate science.

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According to an article in The New York Times two weeks ago, Pruitt has infuriated the right wing of his party by declining to reopen the "endangerment finding."

He has told both Congress and the White House, the newspaper says, that he will not try to reverse the finding, because such an action "would almost surely be overturned by the courts."

During his Senate confirmation hearings, Pruitt said of the finding, "It is there, and it needs to be enforced and respected."

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

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“There is nothing that I know," he continued, "that would cause it to be reviewed.”

The agency's 2009 report concludes that emissions of carbon dioxide, a climate-change gas produced by combusting hydrocarbons in vehicles and power plants, warm the planet and hence endangers the public health and welfare of the U.S.

That, in turn, requires the EPA to issue regulations to reduce those emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks over time to mitigate those effects.

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The climate-science denialists who make up Pruitt's critics say he is "hacking only at the branches of current climate policy," the Times writes. "They want him to pull it out by the roots."

In fact, it appears that if agency cancels the Clean Power Plan it adopted under the Obama administration, it would still be legally bound to propose other legislation to address the issue.

It's far too early to understand the outlines of what a Trump clean-power plan might look like, although it's possible it would rely heavily on the unproven and extremely costly technology of carbon capture from fossil-fuel power plants.

Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)

Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)

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There have even been a few proposals over the years to capture carbon emissions from vehicles.

Scientists and energy analysts almost uniformly suggest, of course, that not combusting fossil fuels in the first place is the best and cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions.

Some suggest that the cost of renewable energy, predominantly wind farms and large-scale solar energy, has already fallen to the point that it is competitive with the most efficient natural-gas combined-cycle generating plants.

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What Pruitt's apparent decision means has yet to be determined.

But it may be viewed as a win for climate science and for legal backing of the scientific findings in the research, analyses, hearings, and public comments that preceded adoption of the regulations.

The endangerment finding was originally recommended by the EPA during the second term of George W. Bush, although his administration refused to act on the memo outlining the finding.

1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film

1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film

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Courts upheld the finding after it was adopted by the Obama Administration and then challenged by the fossil-fuel industry and others.

Pruitt was chosen by Trump in part because he sued the agency he now heads more than a dozen times while he was attorney general of Oklahoma, to prevent it from enforcing emission and environmental-protection rules on the state's fossil-fuel industry.

He also copied and pasted language provided by that industry's lobbyists into official state environmental position papers.

Green Car Reports respectfully reminds its readers that the scientific validity of climate change is not a topic for debate in our comments. We ask that any comments by climate-change denialists be flagged for moderation. Thank you in advance for helping us keep our comments on topic, civil, respectful, and fact-based.

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