U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief gets “rousing welcome” in Copenhagen

The president is not the only American official making waves in Europe today.  According to this post in the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson had a “veni, vidi, vici moment” in Copenhagen.  

Reading through her speech, you can see why.  Jackson says that “In less than 11 months since taking office, we have done more to promote clean energy and prevent climate change than happened in the last 8 years.”   As fate would have it, the most significant achievement of these past 11 month occurred just hours before she stepped onto the plane to Denmark.  This was when, on Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that greenhouse gasses pose a threat to the health and welfare of Americans.  This may seem like a pretty obvious conclusion, but it follows from years of legal wranglings over the question of whether or not the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide, under the Clean Air Act.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA does, in fact, have this authority. On Monday, the EPA took the first step towards regulating these emissions by invoking what is called an “endangerment” finding.  This sets into motion a series of legal and bureacratic steps that will let the EPA introduce new regulations on car emissions in the near future–and then later on other sources of emissions like coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.  

This ruling was a big deal, and gives the United States, the world’s largest historic emitter, something tangeable to bring to the table at COP 15.  “Action Jackson,” indeed.