Source: Agricultural Retailers Association

According to the Agricultural Retailers Association, on March 20, the Environmental Protection Agency sent the White House a proposed finding that carbon dioxide is a danger to public health, which is seen as a precursor for congressional action mandating cuts in industrial greenhouse gas emissions. If approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the endangerment finding could clear the way for the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases believed to contribute to climate change. In effect, the government would treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must review whether greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health or welfare, and this endangerment finding is a product of EPA's review. The EPA has said about 13,000 facilities, accounting for about 85 percent to 90 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S., would be covered under the proposal. It will still take months, or even years, for the administration to finalize rules for regulating greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Obama administration prefers for Congress to pass energy security legislation that includes a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said that an endangerment finding is needed to make sure that federal greenhouse gas regulations hold legal water. Neither Boxer nor House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman have released their cap-and-trade proposals. Waxman plans to move cap-and-trade and energy legislation in one large package through his panel by Memorial Day. Boxer may wait for Waxman to act first before moving her proposal as she continues to work out a strategy for gaining at least 60 votes in the Senate.