EPA and CO2: If the right hand don't get you, the left one might

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The EPA has dropped its long-awaited (since President Obama became president) bombshell, declaring that greenhouse gases -- mainly carbon dioxide -- generated by human industrial activities is a threat to public health and welfare. You can read the EPA's press release here. And Monitor colleague Mark Clayton has a story here.

In fact, for now it's a proposed finding, one subject to public comment for 60 days. The agency will hold public hearings in Arlington, Va., on May 18 and in Seattle, Wash., on May 21. You can read more about that process here.

The vehicle for the EPA's jurisdiction if and when the finding becomes permanent is the Clean Air Act.

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But earlier in the week, the agency took a step to see if it also has jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The link? Ocean acidification, another serious byproduct of humans pumping CO2 into the air. You can read more about it here, here, and here.

On Tuesday, the EPA  placed a notice in the Federal Register seeking data on the acidification problem. It would use the information to draft new pH criteria for ocean water within the country's jurisdiction. You can read the notice here.

To be sure, it's something of a backdoor approach to the more straight-ahead regime to control CO2 emissions directly. But the aim is the same.

Like today's announcement revolving around the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act track approach stems from action by environmental lawyers, in this case lawyers at the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Ariz.  According to the Center, the EPA first established pH standards in 1976. But the act also requires  occasional reviews of the standard to take the last science into account.

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