Yes, Virginia, greenhouse gases are pollutants

The Obama administration takes an important step towards regulating the gases as threats to human health.

Published March 23, 2009 9:10PM (EDT)

It's hardly news that human-induced greenhouse gases pose a threat to human health and welfare. Now that President Bush is out of office, even the federal government dares to admit it.

Yes, the Environmental Protection Agency has just taken a big step towards officially recognizing greenhouse gases as a danger to humans, a move that could pave the way for federal regulation of the emissions contributing to global warming. It's yet another sign that, when it comes to the environment, the Obama administration represents a seismic shift from the Bushies.

The Washington Post broke the news Monday that the EPA sent a proposal to the White House last week that essentially recognizes greenhouse gases as pollutants. It's a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the EPA to determine whether CO2 and other greenhouse gases could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.  The EPA's move represents  a repudiation of one of the Bush administration's defining environmental actions, which involved simply ignoring the advice of the agency's own scientists on global warming.

"This is historic news," Frank O'Donnell of the watchdog group Clean Air Watch told the Post. "It will set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution. And it is likely to help light a fire under Congress to get moving."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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