Press Release | February 19, 2010

Virginia’s Challenge Of EPA Carbon-Emissions Rule Misguided

The announcement today by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli that he is challenging the Environment Protection Agency finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare is misguided, a waste of taxpayer money in severe economic times, and out of synch with where Virginia should be headed.

Following is a statement from SELC attorney Trip Pollard. Mr. Pollard recently served on the Virginia Climate Change Commission, which released its final report in December 2008:

“Make no mistake – the action today by Attorney General Cuccinelli ignores the dangers to public health and welfare that climate changes pose to all Virginians. It diverts us from the imperative task of shifting the Commonwealth away from heavily polluting, carbon-based fuels and towards cleaner energy. It denies thousands of Virginians the opportunity of getting jobs in the growing clean-energy sector. And it commits future generations of Virginians to the extraordinary costs of dealing with sea-level rise, intensified storms and droughts – all related to climate change. Politicians who focus on snow in the South or unseasonably warm rain at the Winter Olympics are willfully ignoring the unbiased evidence from scientists on global climatic trends that have been established across decades.”


Cuccinelli's announcement comes on the heels of a report by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences projecting that rising sea levels and intensifying storms – both as a result of climate change – will have an increasingly devastating impact on the Hampton Roads area. Eric Walberg, with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, was quoted in the Daily Press: “… over time we're going to become more vulnerable to catastrophic flooding from a larger storm. We are going to reach the point where a strong Category 1 or Category 2 storm could really create a difficult issue.”

In addition, this week the State Corporation Commission is hearing testimony on a plan by Dominion Power to cut energy use across its service area by approximately 2.4 million megawatt-hours per year by 2024, which would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 15 million tons annually, according to the company's press release in July 2009 when it announced the plan. In an article in C-ville Weekly yesterday, company spokesman Jim Norvelle said: “I think [our green initiatives exist] because we're responding to what American society and what our customers are asking us to do.”

In December, the EPA announced a final determination that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, threaten the public health and welfare. Hotter, longer heat waves, increased ground-level ozone, and other consequences associated with climate change threaten public health, the agency said. Following are excerpts from its preliminary finding in April 2009:

The Administrator concludes that, in the circumstances presented here, the case for finding that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger public health and welfare is compelling and, indeed, overwhelming…The evidence points ineluctably to the conclusion that climate change is upon us as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, that climatic changes are already occurring that harm our health and welfare, and that the effects will only worsen over time in the absence of regulatory action.

The effects of climate change on public health include sickness and death. It is hard to imagine any understanding of public health that would exclude these consequences. The effects on welfare embrace every category of effect described in the Clean Air Act's definition of “welfare” and, more broadly, virtually every facet of the living world around us.

And, according to the scientific evidence relied upon in making this finding, the probability of the consequences is shown to range from likely to virtually certain to occur. This is not a close case in which the magnitude of the harm is small and the probability great, or the magnitude large and the probability small. In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem.

EPA issued the proposed “endangerment” findings in April 2009 and received more than 380,000 comments during a 60-day public comment period. Its final finding was issued in December. The process was in response to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.