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EPA chief in Aspen: Agency ‘is back on the job’

Lisa P. Jackson
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ASPEN ” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in Aspen Wednesday she has a simple message these days: “The EPA is back on the job for the American people.”

She cited several examples in the keynote address at the Aspen Environment Forum at the Sundeck restaurant atop Aspen Mountain last night. But the topic on everyone’s mind was her agency’s new recommendation to President Obama that greenhouse gases be treated as a danger to public health and welfare.

Jackson is leading a 180-degree change from the EPA stance under the Bush administration. The EPA’s new position could lead to greater regulation of greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act in an effort to slow climate change.

Environmentalists, including the 350 or so attendees and participants in the Aspen Environment Forum, have hailed the move. The business community is weary. Jackson tried to soothe fears about the new direction.

“The point to remember as we enforce the endangerment finding is that we do not want, we hope to avoid actually, a regulatory thicket, where both government and businesses spend untold money fighting over enforcement, fighting over compliance,” she said.

The EPA move, if adopted by the president, is viewed as an administrative tool to regulate greenhouse gas emissions until Congress takes action.

“We’re not looking, as some alarmists have indicated, to regulate every single Dunkin’ Donut or every single cow or every single backyard barbecue grill,” Jackson said. “We’re not looking for a doomsday scenario, in fact we’re looking to avoid it. We’re not looking to shut down the American economy.

“This is a step toward proactive solutions, this is a step toward innovations, investment, implementation of technologies that reduce harmful emissions,” Jackson said.

The EPA forwarded its recommendation to Obama on Friday. Analysts say it could allow the federal government to regulate motor vehicle emissions and potentially establish a way to regulate power plants, oil refineries, cement plants and other factories.

Jackson spoke highly of Obama’s direction on climate change and challenged critics to consider what is at stake for the planet.

“If you think carbon [regulation] challenges economic growth, wait and see what carbon change has in store for economic growth,” she said. “We have long since passed the tipping point ” one way or another we have to bring our emissions down.”

She challenged the Aspen crowd to produce “big ideas” that will lead to sustained action on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next three days, more than 100 scientists, business leaders, researchers and academics will exchange ideas with that goal in mind. The forum is called, “Powering the Planet: Energy for the Long Run.” It is being presented by The Aspen Institute and National Geographic.

The forum drew an interesting mix of people to Aspen. In a matter of minutes it was possible to meet a National Geographic Magazine photographer based in Atlanta, a “green” architect from Washington, D.C., a solar electric system installer also from D.C., a green business owner and operator from San Francisco and an Aspen City Council candidate.

More on the forum can be found online at http://www.aspenenvironment.org/.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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