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Regulate global warming now, urge attorneys general

December 1, 2008 | 12:51 pm

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown On the eve of an Obama administration, pressure is mounting to use the 1990 Clean Air Act to crack down on global warming emissions. The law already covers ozone, nitrogen oxides, particulates and other health-damaging substances. But the Bush administration says it is "ill-suited" for controlling carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and 13 other attorneys general on Monday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use the 1990 act. "It has a proven track record of effectively dealing with complex air pollution problems...and it has done so without harming the economy," they wrote in a letter to the agency.

Using the Clean Air Act would likely be the fastest way for the United States to crack down on its global warming emissions. Barring that, it will be up to Congress to pass a new law to regulate climate-related pollution -- an effort that will entail a lengthy political wrestling match. Last spring, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a bill, as industry lobbyists outfoxed environmentalists.

"After eight years of foot-dragging, it is time for the EPA to reverse its shameful inaction on global warming," said Brown, a likely gubernatorial candidate who has made global warming one of his signature issues.

The California Air Resources Board, which also signed the letter, is expected to adopt its own comprehensive plan next week for slashing the state's planet-warming emissions -- the first state to do so. If the EPA were to regulate global warming under the Clean Air Act, then California could apply for a waiver that would allow it and other states to adopt even stricter rules than the federal government might pass -- an effort sure to rouse vigorous opposition from coal, cement and other heavily-polluting industries.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. Credit:  David McNew /Getty Images