Democrats on the Hill have not been successful at passing a climate change bill yet and many believe such legislation will not be possible unless the bill is put forth during a lame duck session following the November mid-term elections. In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson appears to be looking for ways to legislate climate change regulations if the Congress cannot deliver a bill. In an interview with NPR’s Liane Hansen on Sunday, Ms. Jackson talked about what the EPA plans on doing in the absence of climate change legislation.
Listen to the interview here 1:30 – 3:15 (all emphasis is mine)
NPR: I’d like to return to a conversation we had last October when you were hopeful that Congress would pass a climate change bill and didn’t. Now your agency is issuing new rules and regulations doing some of the things you hoped Congress would do: limiting emissions from cars and trucks, requiring some companies to install new technologies to reduce pollution, but how do you respond to the critics who say that the EPA is overstepping its authority?
JACKSON: You know, Liane, in some ways we haven’t changed our posture. We still call for and believe that legislation is a more comprehensive, better, more efficient way to make low carbon emissions part of our economic fiber—part of our sort of fiber as a country as we grow. That hasn’t changed. And the other thing that hasn’t changed is my belief that I have a legal obligation and an obligation under the Clean Air Act to move forward with regulatory steps. Now I’ve said all along that this isn’t either or. You can’t pick legislation or regulation entirely. You have to move in a way where those two, if you have them, are consistent. So what we’ll continue to do is take regulatory steps, but they’ll be modest…each and every one, because the economy…business needs time to understand the regulations that are coming at them, and so there won’t be any huge shocks to the system.
In a May 26 Washington Times Op-ed piece Steve Milloy writes the 2007 Supreme Court decision that gave the EPA power to regulate greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act only goes so far, because the Clean Air Act also restricts how much the EPA can regulate:
Although the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2007 that the EPA could regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, that law would require that EPA regulate all sources of greenhouse gases that emit more than 250 tons per year. As the average American emits about 20 tons per year, it’s easy to see how the law would require the EPA to regulate virtually every small business and apartment building.
So, to avoid the obvious political problem of having to microregulate virtually all of society, the EPA devised a scheme (called the “tailoring rule”) to limit regulation to facilities that emit 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year. This may sound like a reasonable approach, except that the EPA lacks the legal authority to change the Clean Air Act, which sets the threshold for regulation at 250 tons.
Although the Climategate scandal revealed through email exchanges that notable climate change scientists made self-incriminating remarks, a whitewashed investigation of the matter gave those involved a free pass and bureaucrats in Washington an excuse to continue forward on climate change legislation (h/t WSJ):
It’s impossible to find anything wrong if you really aren’t looking. In a famous email of May 29, 2008, Phil Jones, director of East Anglia’s CRU, wrote to Mr. Mann, under the subject line “IPCC & FOI,” “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re AR4 [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report]? Keith will do likewise … can you also email Gene [Wahl, an employee of the U.S. Department of Commerce] to do the same … We will be getting Caspar [Amman, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research] to do likewise.”
Mr. Jones emailed later that he had “deleted loads of emails” so that anyone who might bring a Freedom of Information Act request would get very little. According to New Scientist writer Fred Pearce, “Russell and his team never asked Jones or his colleagues whether they had actually done this.”
The Russell report states that “On the allegation of withholding temperature data, we find that the CRU was not in a position to withhold access to such data.” Really? Here’s what CRU director Jones wrote to Australian scientist Warrick Hughes in February 2005: “We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it[?]”
Ms. Jackson seems convinced the Climategate “era” is over, and those pushing for a climate change bill (a.k.a. an energy tax) can move forward now.
NPR: Do you have any hope that Congress will pass a climate change bill anytime soon?
JACKSON: As far as climate change is concerned I think there is a lot of work over the past months to re-establish man-made changes to the climate are happening and as we move past the climate-gate era and I think we are, my hope is that Congress will come back to think about that question once again.
The climate change bill may be dormant right now, but the ideas and upcoming regulations enshrining it are far from dead. What Congress may not be able to accomplish this year, the EPA will do for them instead. The question now remains whether or not a newly sworn in Congress in 2011 will do anything stop it.
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