While this does not mean any immediate emissions requirements for the industry, EPA said the findings are a prerequisite to finalizing its proposed greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles, which were jointly proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Safety Administration on Sept. 15.
According to the EPA, on-road vehicles are responsible for more than 23 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles, the agency says.
The EPA found that greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.
"These long-overdue findings cement 2009's place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform," said Lisa P. Jackson, EPA administrator. "Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy."
EPA's endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.
Monday's announcement was not without some opposition. According to Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, the findings will stall construction projects.
"Every single construction project in America is now likely to be put on standby until federal bureaucrats decide whether to grant Clean Air Act permits, making it even harder to construct efficient new buildings, cut polluting traffic or retrofit existing, inefficient buildings," Sandherr said. "At a time when the government is investing billions in construction activity to rebuild our economy, this decision will undermine the stimulus, cost thousands of construction workers their jobs and stifle economic growth for decades to come. The association and its 33,000 member companies urge the Administration to rethink its misguided approach and plan to work closely with Congress to overturn this disastrous decision."
The finding "could result in a top-down command-and-control regime that will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in a statement. "The devil will be in the details, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure we don't stifle our economic recovery," he said.
For more information on the EPA's findings, go to www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html.