July 31, 2007

Anti-Global Warming Measure Passes Senate Committee

Legislation Pushes EPA to Remove Roadblocks to R.I. Pollution Control Program

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has approved legislation pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow states to set strict limits on pollution from cars, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced. Whitehouse, a committee member, is a cosponsor of the bill, designated S. 1785.

“Rhode Islanders are committed to taking common-sense, concrete steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions – but years of stonewalling and delay by the Bush administration have allowed millions of tons of global warming pollution into our air and made it more difficult to reverse the long-term effects of climate change,” Whitehouse said. “We can already see the effects of global warming in the Ocean State. This bill makes it clear that the President must let Rhode Island move forward to protect our people and our environment.”

Rhode Island is one of twelve states seeking approval of a waiver, requested from EPA by the state of California, that would allow states to mandate a stricter vehicle emissions standard than required under federal law. If approved, the new standard would force automakers to manufacture vehicles that emit lower levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that contribute to global warming. According to a report released earlier this year by Environment Rhode Island, the twelve states’ programs will reduce gasoline consumption, generate savings for consumers, and cut emissions by 74 million metric tons per year in 2020.

Cumulative reductions in global warming pollutants between 2009 and 2020, the report said, would reach as high as 392 million metric tons – a drop equal to taking 74 million of today’s cars off the road for a year.

The EPA has refused to take steps to approve the waiver, based on a years-long argument that it does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. While the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year that EPA does, in fact, have that authority, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has claimed his agency still needs more time to review the waiver requests.

Whitehouse, a vocal advocate for action to combat climate change, returned earlier this week from a trip to Greenland, where he and other members of the EPW Committee toured glaciers and ice fields endangered by global warming. He is a cosponsor of the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, legislation sponsored by Boxer and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to call for an 80% reduction – compared to 1990 levels – in global warming pollutants by 2050.

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