The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed findings on greenhouse gas emissions were a carefully worded attempt to appease climate-change activists while containing hostility from business and energy organizations or Congress.
The “endangerment” and “contribute” findings, that greenhouse gases posed a danger to human health, were designed to provide clear signs of progress on a signature issue for the administration while preserving maximum flexibility.
The Obama administration is struggling to reconcile high hopes of ambitious action with the need to formulate a policy that can be sold to the Democratic Party’s working-class base in the industrial Midwest and coal-producing states of Appalachia.
Senior officials have tailoring their message depending on the audience. In briefings to climate groups, the administration has stressed it has enough authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions and is prepared to press ahead unilaterally if Congress fails to approve comprehensive legislation.
But in remarks aimed at legislators and business organizations, officials have stressed they prefer a legislative solution, that any regulation is subject to consultation and would not take effect for years, would be limited in scope, and would be pre-empted if Congress enacted a comprehensive scheme.