epa, epa and emissions standards, chamber of commerce global warming
man-made climate change, man-made global warming

What's Behind the Chamber of Commerce Request for a Public Hearing With the EPA?

August 27, 2009 04:30 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in an attempt to stymie federal carbon emissions regulations, is pressing for a public hearing with the Environmental Protection Agency that could end up in federal court.

Man-Made Debate Rages On

The Chamber of Commerce hopes to discredit the consensus among scientists that man-made greenhouse gases play a significant role in global warming, and plans to take the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to federal court if the request for a public hearing is denied. The EPA has called the hearing a "waste of time" and the potential federal lawsuit "frivolous," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Chamber's public hearing request follows the EPA's so-called endangerment finding report, which was sent to the White House in March. The report says global warming endangers public health and welfare, according to The Washington Post. The Post also published a question and answer segment in which Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs for the Chamber, explains why he thinks the report will "adversely affect the economy and environment." Kovacs says the EPA's Clean Air Act is not equipped to regulate greenhouse gases, and that "the agency and public will be overwhelmed."

In a column for the Wonk Room, however, EPA Senior Policy Counsel Robert M. Sussman asserted that the endangerment finding would not strangle the economy, as Kovacs indicated. Rather, explained Sussman, the administration could effectively regulate global warming by "focusing on large emitters of greenhouse gases to achieve reasonable reductions," not by stifling small business owners. At the same time, enforcing tighter emissions regulations would spur economic growth and create green-collar job opportunities, Sussman indicated.

Background: Scientific evidence of global warming

According to Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press, the National Climatic Data Center reported that in July, the world's oceans were the hottest they have been in almost 130 years of record-keeping. Hotter oceans are taken as "more ominous as a sign of global warming" than higher temperatures on land, climate scientist Andrew Weaver explained, because it takes more time for water to heat up, and water "doesn't cool off as easily."

Rajendra Pachauri, one of the U.N.'s top climate scientists, personally lent his support to "ambitious goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions" last week, the Australia News Network reported. Pachauri, who is also chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said he was in favor of the "call to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 350 parts per million," an important statement as world leaders prepare for the U.N. Climate Change Conference being held in December in Copenhagen.

Related Topic: Waxman-Markey

According to Yale Environment 360, the Chamber of Commerce "is concerned not only about EPA regulation but also about a carbon cap-and-trade bill that has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and is now before the U.S. Senate."

The carbon cap-and-trade bill, known as Waxman-Markey—named after Democratic Congressmen Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, its cosponsors—has spawned a fierce debate. The bill would have implications for daily life and industry in America, and although some critics claim it would raise both unemployment and the cost of living, others say it would not do nearly enough to limit the nation's negative environmental impact.

Historical Context: Scopes monkey trial

According to the Los Angeles Times, officials at the Chamber of Commerce have said their proposed public hearing "would be 'the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.'" For their part, environmentalists contend that during the Scopes trials, "the scientists won in the end."

The 1925 case of the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes pitted creationists against supporters of evolution, sparring over a Tennessee antievolution law making it illegal "to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals," as quoted by American Heritage magazine.

The Scopes trial created a media circus, and the affair was in part a publicity stunt orchestrated by the American Civil Liberties Union to test the legality of state-imposed religious limits on teaching, according to American Heritage.

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