WASHINGTON, DC: Three scientists, one climate accountability analyst, one physician, and two
public-interest organizations, will soon file a far-reaching Petition with the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to phase out GHG pollution based on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended in 2016.
- Petitioners will file in-person at EPA Headquarters in Washington D.C. on June 16th at 10am Eastern time, and will hold a press conference after the filing, at Freedom Plaza, beginning at 11am Eastern time.
- An embargoed press briefing will be held with the Climate Emergency Forum on Friday, June 10, 2022, at 1pm Eastern time, via zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3683543857.
Co-petitioner Donn J. Viviani, a 35-year EPA veteran (now retired) explains: “Under TSCA, specific chemical substances that impose ‘an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment’ need to be restricted. Indeed, that’s how we kick started the global effort to protect the Ozone Layer from CFCs back in 1978. Here, as President Biden has recognized, we confront an ‘existential threat.’ But there are alternatives, and GHG emissions can be avoided, destroyed, removed, and sequestered. Accordingly, the existential threat to our children is avoidable, albeit with some effort. The risk, therefore, is unreasonable. EPA needs to act.”
The Petition includes a summary of the relevant science, establishing that unabated GHG emissions – stemming predominantly from the burning of oil, coal and gas – already afflict the nation with heightened wildfire, deadly heat waves, extreme drought, severe flooding, rising seas, and an increasingly acidified, shell-dissolving ocean.
According to famed climate scientist and co-petitioner James E. Hansen, “Our elected leaders have dithered too long. Economists agree that a carbon fee with the funds distributed to the public is the fastest way to achieve clean energy, job growth and social justice. Our Petition lays out a path for the President to take action under existing law that gets us part way there. Congressional gridlock can no longer excuse inaction.”
The Petition will be filed while the US Supreme Court is still considering West Virginia et al. vs. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That case, according to Dan Galpern, Counsel to Petitioners, concerns whether, under a catch-all provision of the Clean Air Act, the Agency retains authority to impose requirements beyond the fence-line of particular power plants to phase out the most pollution-intensive fossil fuels.
According to Galpern, “the Court’s decision simply should not disturb EPA’s authority under TSCA. The Clean Air Act and TSCA are coordinate legal tools. Indeed, Congress intended they be used together to address the nation’s most intractable environmental problems. Moreover, TSCA clearly establishes that restrictions, to the point of prohibition, are in order – for chemical substances that impose a serious risk of injury to public health or the environment. Here, the fate of the climate system implicates everything. We need to do right by our children and their progeny, utilizing every significant available legal tool, particularly at this very late hour.”
According to co-petitioner John Birks, Emeritus Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Colorado, “We know enough to warrant serious action. Indeed, EPA certainly retains in its files a mountain’s worth of detailed scientific studies concerning more horrific impacts that are still to come. My colleagues and I are determined not only to avert the worst, but to protect and restore a viable climate for future generations. That is why we have here outlined an appropriately ambitious path.”
Climate experts ranging from Dr. Hansen to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have established that our present course of high GHG emissions is unsustainable. But in order to chart a different course, according to co-petitioner and climate accountability analyst Richard Heede, it is necessary to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. “We do this, in the Petition, in two ways: first, by pressing EPA to require a phaseout of GHG emissions within reach of US law, and second, by compelling the industry to remove, or pay to remove, at least a share of its so-called ‘legacy’ GHG emissions.”
Clearly, the “existential threat” presented by the climate crisis is not a subject for scientists alone. As co-petitioner and clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at George Washington University Lise Van Susteren puts it, “there is a critical moral, spiritual and psychological dimension to the climate issue that demands our full attention. The reality of increasingly severe outcomes, absent appropriate action, induces present trauma in our children, similar, in certain respects, to the threat of gun violence. As responsible adults, we need to do something right now. How else can we provide any real hope to the children? Here we demand no more than the enforcement of existing law. The Petition certainly gives me hope, at least.”
Petition to Phase Out GHG Pollution to Restore a Stable & Healthy Climate: Fact Sheet of June 7, 2022.