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Don’t hinder EPA from regulating emissions

Temperatures in Wisconsin are expected to rise by midcentury by an annual average of 6 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists and others in state government. Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record based on global surface temperature. It was also the wettest year on record worldwide, the NOAA reported.

It’s true that one year doesn’t make a pattern, but the evidence continues to mount. Climate change is real, and human activity ― such as carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants and vehicles ― appears to be a major contributing factor, according to the weight of science on the topic.

Yet there are members of Congress who are busily introducing bills to limit or bar or delay the federal Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. On what planet are these folks living? Oh, that’s right, the planet that’s continuing to see a warming trend and more volatile weather patterns.

Congress has failed time and again to pass adequate energy and climate legislation. In 2007, a Supreme Court decision gave the EPA authority to regulate carbon emissions. Thanks to Congress’ failure to act, that court-conferred authority for the EPA is the only way the federal government can mitigate the human impact on climate change.

The EPA is moving forward with rules ― some already proposed, some stronger rules to come later this year ― aimed at getting rid of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired plants around the country. That’s a big step forward in reducing carbon emissions.

The rules are modest and reasonable, and unlikely to affect the majority of businesses and industries. They also could spur innovations that would help manufacturers reduce their energy consumption and their energy costs. At the same time, the rules would help make air and water cleaner and reduce greenhouse gases.

Which makes it all the more important for Congress to, first, reject attempts to hinder the EPA in carrying out its responsibilities, and, second, create legislation to really combat climate change and grow green jobs.

The United States should be taking the lead here, not falling back.

(The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 11)
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