Obama orders government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020

President Barack Obama on Jan. 29 ordered the federal government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 28% by 2020. The reduction is pursuant to Executive Order 13514, signed by Obama in October. The order provides that “Federal agencies shall increase energy efficiency; measure, report, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from direct and indirect activities; conserve and protect water resources through efficiency, reuse, and stormwater management; eliminate waste, recycle, and prevent pollution.” The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will be responsible for implementing the initiatives outlined in the order at the agency and departmental levels.

Obama’s announcement comes a month after the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Although the conference failed to produce any legally binding resolution, 192 countries, including the US, agreed to “take note” of the non-binding Cophenhagen Accord. (Jurist, Jan. 29)

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  1. Senate blocks bill to prevent EPA regulation of carbon emissions
    The US Senate June 10 defeated a resolution aimed at limiting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The measure, introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), was defeated by a vote of 53 to 47 with six Democratic senators joining the Republican caucus in supporting the measure. Supporters of the resolution contend that Congress, and not the EPA, should have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. They also argue that the announced EPA regulations would harm the economy. Under the announced regulations, new stationary sources of pollution, such as oil refineries and power plants, would be required to use the best available technology in order to minimize pollution. Carbon dioxide emissions would also be limited through the use of higher fuel requirement standards on new automobiles.

    The US Supreme Court affirmed the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions under the Clear Air Act in its 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency. In its ruling, the court held that if the EPA could show a link between greenhouse gas emissions and public health and welfare then the act gives it the power to regulate emissions. The EPA announced last December that it had found that greenhouse gases “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations,” and that emissions from motor vehicles contribute to greenhouse gas pollution. (Jurist, June 11)