The head of the Environmental Protection Agency told the Bush administration in December that high levels of man-made heat-trapping gases are causing global warming and endanger the American people, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said after she reviewed the EPA finding, which has not been made public.
The document is important because the Supreme Court ruled last year that if the EPA administrator finds greenhouse gases endanger the public, then the government must regulate them – a move the administration opposes.
“This is the strongest language I have ever seen or that you have ever seen, and they are trying to lock it away,” said Boxer, who took notes on the document and then shared them with reporters.
Boxer called for the document's publication, saying it represented the agency's most important work in many years.
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“The document belongs in the hands of the American people,” she said.
The EPA sent the proposed finding to the White House in December in an e-mail, but the White House declined to open it, ensuring that it would not have to be made public.
It was not clear how the White House could not open the e-mail but nonetheless had the document to show to Boxer, other senators and staff for limited periods Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
“I asked,” Boxer said. “Absolute silence.”
The 38-page document says EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson believes there is “compelling and robust” evidence that the increasing average global temperature that has been observed in recent years is due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and remain there for many decades. There is strong agreement among U.S. government scientists, academics and researchers worldwide that the gases are producing warming and that Earth could warm enough to cause unstoppable changes – such as oceans engulfing coastal regions where millions live – if emissions are left unchecked.
The EPA's document said the EPA chief “is proposing to find that elevated levels of GHG (greenhouse gas) concentrations may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare.”
The Supreme Court ruled in April 2007 that the EPA must regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act if it finds the public is endangered. Boxer said the document should have been that trigger.
“This is huge,” she said.
Boxer said there were many more details in the document than she could convey through the notes.