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Need for Immediate Action on Global Warming: Congress Must Act Now to Protect Public Health

Posted by Mae Stevens on May 15, 2009

PSR extends its appreciation to Chairman Henry Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey for their leadership in crafting a comprehensive climate change and energy bill.  They and their staff have taken the first step to transform America’s energy future and to begin combating global warming.

The bill falls short in several areas, shortcomings that might cause the bill, if implemented as drafted, to be insufficient to make necessary reductions of the emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S. 

As the EPA found in April, the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming represent a danger to health and public welfare.  PSR is concerned about the human health consequences that are occurring because of climate change and will grow worse as the world warms.

In order to prevent the most catastrophic events associated with global warming, PSR recommends the following to make the bill more effective:

  • Science-based pollution reduction targets. Cut total, economy-wide global warming emissions by at least 20 percent below 2001 levels by 2020 and by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Periodic science review and update. Include a mechanism for periodic reviews of developments in the science and the effectiveness of the program and to require the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, as appropriate, to adjust the regulatory response.
  • Auction of all pollution allowances and use of proceeds to mitigate impacts on consumers, vulnerable communities and public health.  By placing a price on carbon the auctioning of allowances should generate the maximum amount of revenue feasible, amounting to billions of dollars each year. These funds should not provide polluting industries windfall profits, nor should such industries be able to spend public resources indiscriminately. Instead, the revenue should be used to achieve our nation’s pollution-reduction goals, assist consumers and provide for an adequate response to the growing public health threat.
  • Eliminate phase in for coal-fired power plants.  Emissions from coal plants cause significant public health threats, especially respiratory distress and cardiovascular disease.  Any new coal-fired power plants allowed must meet new criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emission standards immediately and do so without public financing.
  • Non-renewable energy sources (such as nuclear or carbon capture and sequestration on coal fired power plants) must not be given credits or defined as renewable, and they must meet pollutant emission standards. Only truly clean technologies that take into account life-cycle emissions and costs, technology maturity, and other environmental impacts of qualified energy sectors should be defined as renewable energy. Nuclear power is dirty and dangerous, and should not be defined as a renewable resource. Emissions from coal plants cause significant public health threats, especially respiratory distress and cardiovascular disease.  Any new coal-fired power plants allowed must meet new criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas emission standards and do so without public financing.
  • The EPA must retain the ability to regulate greenhouse gasses under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. Greenhouse gasses cause global warming, which has been identified by the EPA as a threat to public health. EPA must retain the ability to regulate these gasses in order to protect the public from the most serious effects of global warming.

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