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Greenhouse Gases a Human Health Threat: EPA

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Carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded in what's considered a first step to regulating industrial, power plant and vehicle pollutants that cause climate change.

The EPA's so-called "endangerment" finding, which marks the first formal action by the U.S. government toward restricting greenhouse gas emissions, won't become final until after a public review, Bloomberg news reported.

The EPA was forced to examine the issue after a Supreme Court ruling two years ago. The nation's top court concluded that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and must be regulated if they're found to pose a threat to human health. The Bush administration declined to act on the ruling and left the issue to be dealt with by the Obama White House, Bloomberg reported.

Reaction on both sides of the EPA's decision was sharp.

David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the environmental group The Sierra Club, told Bloomberg the EPA decision could spur regulation of General Motors Corp. and other car makers, as well as utilities and chemical and steel makers. "There is no longer a question of if, or even when, the U.S. will act on global warming: We are doing so now," Bookbinder said in a statement.

But Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, called the EPA's ruling "the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America's global competitiveness," Bloomberg reported.

U.S. power plants account for about 40 percent of the nation's carbon-dioxide emissions, while vehicles make up about 30 percent, according to government figures reported by Bloomberg. The U.S. produces about 20 percent of the world's man-made carbon-dioxide emissions, according to Energy Department figures cited by the news service.

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