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Earth Day action: comment on the EPA’s carbon finding

Speaking of citizen action, now is an excellent time to let the EPA know you feel about its recent endangerment finding for greenhouse gases. They’ve even set up a handy email address (, so you can show your support for meaningful climate change legislation in less time than it takes to get to the bottom of this blog post.

Background in a nutshell: a few years ago, several states filed a lawsuit to force the federal government to classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court eventually kicked the case back to the EPA, requiring the agency to make a formal determination on whether greenhouse gases compose a threat to human health and welfare. The EPA finally released that “endangerment finding” a few days ago, declaring to nobody’s surprise that carbon emissions are bad for people.

This is a big deal for two reasons. The first is that, with this endangerment finding, the federal government is actually required to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The second is that the finding is a potential end run around the U.S. Congress. While senators grandstand, the EPA can just go ahead and start issuing regulations. Unfortunately, they have to do so within the framework of the Clean Air Act, which is a poor tool for regulating carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, many hope that just the threat of more aggressive regulation from the EPA will be enough to prod congress into action.

OK, deep breath. Now, how does this offer you the opportunity for citizen action? The EPA offers a 60-day public comment period on their endangerment finding. You can offer comment by fax, by mail, in person, or — best of all — by email.

Why should you bother chiming in? Well, if you want some inspiration, check out this rundown of the antics opposition lawmakers are pulling in the current round of congressional hearings on the comprehensive climate and energy bill. Rather than, you know, engaging with the issue in some kind of meaningful way, they’ve turned the mic over to the usual clown show. Did you know that the planet is “carbon-starved”? Did you know that “the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical”? If these statements bother you in any way, you might want to let the government know that some citizens actually do support climate legislation.

What should you say to the EPA? Up to you, really, although my guess is that general messages of support are probably just as useful as detailed policy advice, given the legal complexities involved. For example, here’s the barebones minimum message:

> Yay!

Or how about this:

> I’m writing to express my support for the recent endangerment finding, and to urge the EPA to move swiftly to enact regulations that will put us on a path to stabilizing greenhouse gases at levels conducive to human well-being. Numerous scientific and economic studies have shown that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action, and the EPA should lead the charge in promoting energy efficiency, clean energy, and energy demand reduction.

Or a more inside-baseball approach:

> I’m writing to express my support for the recent endangerment finding. Although the Clean Air Act may not be the ideal mechanism for regulating greenhouse gases, by moving swiftly and applying its technical expertise to the problem, the EPA will help to ensure a positive legislative outcome. Numerous scientific and economic studies have shown that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. It is important that we use the best means at our disposal to stabilize the climate system, but above all else, it is critical that we start now.

Do it. Click the link, cut and paste, press send. Or write your own. I think it’s nice to include your full name, city, and state at the bottom of such notes, just to show there’s a real citizen behind the message. And of course, feel free to leave a comment below.

(If for some reason you prefer mail or fax, Grist has the full details.)

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