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EPA drafts global-warming initiative

The Environmental Protection Agency is drafting regulations that may help reduce air pollution from greenhouse-gas emissions, EPA administrator Steven L. Johnson said Thursday.

Johnson made the announcement during the "Water Policies and Planning in the West" meeting at the Sheraton City Centre, sponsored by the Western Governors' Association and the Western States Water Council.

Greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels, are blamed for causing or at least contributing to global warming. The EPA has been under fire recently for refusing to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants, although the agency acknowledges it has authority to regulate them from mobile sources such as cars and trucks.

But Johnson told hundreds of people attending the conference Thursday that the EPA "is taking another new, important step" to address greenhouse-gas emissions. He said he has asked EPA staff members to develop draft regulations to control the injection of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from power plants into underground geologic formations.

The regulations are supposed to ensure consistency in developing commercial-scale sites for the geological injection, Johnson said. Gases would be pumped "into deep subsurface rock formations for proper storage."

This technology, Johnson added, "could play a major role" in reducing greenhouse gases.

Following his talk, Johnson told the Deseret Morning News that the EPA is starting the rule-making process that would lead to the regulation. The strategy is "a vital component for addressing global climate change and addressing greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

EPA several months ago began putting together a guidance document on the issue and discovered a need to create regulations to protect the environment and ensure regulatory consistency.

The Bush administration wants rapid technological development in the sequestration and injection program, Johnson said, and one of the questions that needs answering is how to regulate such projects.

Proposed regulations should be available for public comment next year, Johnson said.

During his speech, he also said that in order to meet the demands of a growing population, the United States needs to invest in building the infrastructure of wastewater treatment plants and water systems. The latest Census Bureau estimates place the United States' population at 420 million by the year 2050. That's nearly 40 percent higher than the present population, estimated as 303 million.

"Clearly, we need smart strategies for meeting this growth," he said.