WASHINGTON, D.C. --- By declaring that industrial greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and well-being, the Environmental Protection Agency has paved the way for broad new regulations to reduce carbon dioxide and other planet-heating gases, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The EPA's proposed finding could lead to major restrictions that affect cars and trucks, which account for nearly a quarter of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, and utilities, which are responsible for more than a third, the L.A. Times reported. Virtually all major areas of the economy could be affected, including oil, chemicals, cement, steel, forestry and large-scale farming.

The proposed EPA finding contrasts sharply with the Bush administration, which cast doubt on the science behind climate change and took steps to delay government intervention. The finding also signals to other nations that the U.S. is willing to cut its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Diplomats are preparing for a December gathering in Copenhagen to negotiate a new treaty on climate change.

The proposed EPA finding also puts pressure on Congress to advance major climate change legislation. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills, CA), co-author of a bill to create a national market to cap emissions and allow trading of credits, praised the EPA action but said it would be up to Congress to "break our dependence on foreign sources of energy and help transform our economy," the Times reported. 

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said addressing the climate-change issue would "create millions of green jobs and end our country's dependence on foreign oil." But opponents of such regulation warn that it will further damage a struggling economy. The House's top-ranking Republican, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, called the EPA's finding "a backdoor attempt to enact a national energy tax."

The proposed "endangerment finding," which would be finalized after a 60-day comment period, was spurred by a 2007 Supreme Court decision that ordered the EPA to review scientific evidence for regulating climate-altering gases under the Clean Air Act, according to the L.A. Times. If Congress failed to pass legislation, the agency could move forward on its own.

President Obama has said he wants the U.S. to slash greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by mid-century to prevent the worst effects of climate change, including heat waves, flooding, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, water shortages and the widespread extinction of wildlife and plant species.

The EPA has yet to make a decision on whether to grant California's petition to proceed with its rules to cut carbon dioxide pollution from automobile tailpipes. The agency is set to make a decision by June 30. With restructuring of the auto industry under negotiation, carmakers argue the decision on California's auto rules should be postponed. If it is not, 13 other states and the District of Columbia have committed to adopting California rules. That would essentially require a major increase in fuel efficiency across 40 percent of the U.S. car market, the Times reported.