WASHINGTON - As the U.S. Congress fights over legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, the Obama administration is considering a series of regulations that also would cut such pollutants.
Legislation would be more comprehensive but if Democrats in Congress fail to agree on a bill, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to move ahead sometime next year.
Here is a rundown of EPA's actions:
* ENDANGERMENT FINDING:
The EPA made an initial finding in April that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that can endanger public health. After a review of public comments, the agency issued a final rule on December 7, allowing it to regulate six gases, including carbon dioxide, that scientists say cause global warming.
The endangerment finding gives the United States some footing at the climate change summit in Copenhagen. The finding will do much to garner support and show the world the United States is committed to tackling climate change despite stalled legislation.
Yet the Obama administration said it prefers legislation over action by the EPA, as attempts to issue climate control regulations without the backing on Congress would likely generate a slew of legal challenges.
* AUTO EMISSIONS:
In September, the Obama administration announced it would seek tougher fuel economy standards for all cars and light trucks sold in the United States. Those vehicles would have to achieve 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 950 million metric tons.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said automakers will know by the end of March about the required increases in fuel economy standards that would affect vehicles built for the 2012 model year.
The climate change bills in Congress do not directly deal with such auto emissions, so this initiative is likely to proceed no matter what happens on Capitol Hill.
* EMISSION REDUCTIONS:
The final endangerment finding clears the way for the EPA to set forth rules, possibly next year, that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Some moderate Democrats in Congress argue the regulations could be more onerous on business than anything lawmakers would pass and are urging the House of Representatives and Senate to act fast to preempt stronger EPA action.
* GREENHOUSE GAS REGISTRY:
In January 2010, the EPA will begin a national registry for the first time to require large emitters of heat-trapping emissions to collect their greenhouse gas data. The program will cover about 10,000 facilities, accounting for up to 85 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The data will be released in 2011. Businesses that emit at least 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year would have to participate, which would exempt most small businesses. The EPA estimates it would cost industry about $160 million in 2011, the first year of the registry, falling to $127 million in subsequent years.
A public comment period has ended and a final rule is being reviewed by the White House.
(Compiled by Richard Cowan and Jasmin Melvin; Editing by John O'Callaghan)