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EPA resists greenhouse gas regulation

EPA administrator says that Clean Air Act is not the right tool for handling the complex issue of climate change. Instead, Congress should pass new legislation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday that Congress, not the EPA, should regulate greenhouse gases.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson hosted a conference call with reporters on Friday where he said that existing law, the Clean Air Act, is "ill-suited" to addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead, Johnson said that Congress should draft legislation to address climate change.

"It's really at the feet of the Congress to come up with good legislation that cuts through what will likely be decades of litigation and regulation," he said on the call.

A document published by the EPA on Friday, called Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), compiles concerns from other government agencies and solicits public comments.

The ANPR was issued in response to a Supreme Court ruling last April that compelled the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide as pollutants if they affect human health.

With the Clean Air Act, the EPA cannot adequately address climate change regulations because of the complexity of the task, which affects other government agencies, the U.S. economy, and potentially individual citizens, Johnson said.

Earlier this week at the G8 meeting of industrialized countries, world leaders called on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, but it was unclear whether 1990 or today's levels serve as a baseline.

Although hailed as a victory by the Bush administration, environmentalists said that the targets are too low to avert the most serious effects of climate change.

The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, lambasted the EPA's move on Friday, saying that "the first thing the next administration will do is toss the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking into the circular file."

Most businesses believe that some sort of climate change regulation that put limits on air pollution will take hold in the next president's administration.

These regulations could let green-tech companies make money from reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But, in general, most start-ups are not expecting to monetize those reductions in the near term.