Head of EPA May Not Decide on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Regulations

The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday said he may not decide on greenhouse gas emissions regulations under the Clean Air Act before President Bush leaves office in January.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson added that either he "or the next administrator" of the agency would finalize any possible climate change regulations that may emerge from a call for public comments that EPA plans to issue by June 21.

"It is critical that we lay that all out and have the public input," he said at a Platts Energy Podium in Washington.

Johnson said that he would "prefer" to see legislation to deal with climate change and carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) rather than use existing laws such as the Clean Air Act.

"My experience says that a legislative fix is a much more efficient and effective approach," he said.

The US Supreme Court last year designated carbon dioxide, the most common of all greenhouse gases, a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

"I don't believe that the Clean Air Act is the most efficient and effective way of addressing a new pollutant that is a global pollutant," he said. "It was never intended for a global air pollutant."

The impending notice, called an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, will respond to the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. The case addressed only emissions from cars and trucks and said that if EPA determined that climate change posed a danger to the public, the agency had to regulate CO2.

Johnson reiterated his agency's concern that if greenhouse gases are regulated from mobile sources alone, the "interconnectedness" of provisions within the law could trigger regulations on other economic sectors as well.

Johnson did not back a specific approach for reducing emissions -- emissions trading or a carbon tax -- nor did he say whether any legislation Congress passes should have mandatory caps on emissions.

"It needs to be done in a responsible way," he said. "A market-based approach is the most efficient and most effective."

The Senate plans to debate in June a cap-and-trade bill written by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Warner. The bill (S. 2191) would limit emissions and allow companies to trade permits to pollute. Their legislation mandates an emissions cut of about 66% from 2005 levels by 2050.

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