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Regulating Climate: What Role for the Clean Air Act?

September 2009

Citation: 39 ELR 10837

Issue: 9

Author: Brigham Daniels, Hannah Polikov, Timothy Profeta, and James Salzman

For the Barack Obama Administration, addressing climate change has quickly risen as a priority. How the Administration should address climate change, however, remains very much in question. The U.S. Congress has started to move on climate legislation, but assuming passage, the final shape and detail of these efforts may not be known for months or even years. In the meantime, the Clean Air Act (CAA)1--a complex legal framework with many regulatory hooks and levers--remains the law of the land.

In light of the CAA's central role in addressing climate change over at least the near term, and perhaps far longer, on March 26, 2009, a group of the nation's leading CAA experts gathered at Duke University to focus specifically on how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could or should use the CAA to reduce the nation's greenhouse gases (GHGs). Cosponsored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, the Duke Law School, and the Harvard Law School, the conference was organized with robust participation from EPA. To ensure that the presentations and discussions were policyrelevant, each panel commenced with a speaker from EPA providing an overview of the current policy landscape. The speakers who followed, drawn from academia, industry, and the nonprofit sector, then focused on specific opportunities and challenges presented by the CAA.

This short Article highlights the major points raised during the day-long conference and seeks to provide insight into the factors EPA will need to consider as it moves forward with crafting GHG regulations under the CAA. We by no means claim to provide a full catalogue of the insights and discussion of the different panels but instead try to crystallize the key messages of the day as perceived by the authors.

Brigham Daniels is Assistant Professor, Law Center, University of Houston. Hannah Polikov is a Senior Legislative Assistant for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Cal.). Timothy Profeta is Director, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University. James Salzman is Mordecai Professor of Law, Nicholas Institute Professor of Environmental Policy, Duke University.

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