- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2008

The White House on Friday took dramatic steps to head off a massive expansion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases, which the agency had considered in response to a Supreme Court ruling this year.

The Bush administration rejected an EPA proposal to regulate greenhouse gases under the 1963 Clean Air Act, taking the unusual step of publicly releasing internal criticism of the EPA’s plan.

“The onerous command-and-control regulation contemplated in the EPA staff draft would impose crippling costs on the economy in the form of a massive hidden tax, without even ensuring that the intended overall emissions reductions occur,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

The administration released for public review and comment 85 pages of scathing critiques from five Cabinet agencies and three other offices, instead of resolving the interagency dispute internally.

The White House said it took the step in the hope that letting Congress see for itself the details of the 500-page EPA proposal would persuade it not to pass a strict regulatory scheme. Friday’s action effectively ends the possibility of any regulatory steps being taken against greenhouse gases during the Bush administration.

“We’re hopeful that Congress sees that that’s the train wreck the president was talking about,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Further, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said he disagreed with the idea of using the Clean Air Act for greenhouse gas regulation, as suggested in his agency’s own proposal, which runs to nearly 500 pages.

The Clean Air Act, Mr. Johnson said, is “an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects [and] is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.”

“One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land,” Mr. Johnson said.

The EPA issued its proposed rule in response to the Supreme Court’s April decision that the federal government does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. That decision also gave the EPA the task of deciding whether global warming posed a threat to the public health or welfare.

A former EPA official, Jason Burnett, has accused Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality of pressuring another government official to remove from congressional testimony last fall a finding that global warming is a “serious public health concern.”

The Bush administration’s move on Friday means that the next president will have to decide whether to give the EPA broad, climate change-related regulatory powers, or to push Congress to pass a law implementing emission controls.

John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said he wants the president to do both.

“Those two options need not supplant one another. You could have regulations followed by more well-conceived legislation,” he said. “You can craft more tailored legislation, … but that in no way should serve as excuse for inaction.”

“The Bush administration has passed the buck,” Mr. Walke said.

The White House, and the letters drafted by its multiple agencies and offices, insisted that the U.S. should use a broader approach that includes spending on new clean-energy technology, broad goals for the economy as a whole, and then specific goals for certain business sectors, and an insistence that developing countries such as China and India also commit to reducing their emissions.

“An effective and workable approach to controlling [greenhouse gas] emissions and addressing global climate change should not simply consist of a unilateral and extraordinarily burdensome Clean Air Act regulatory program being layered on top of the U.S. economy, with the federal government taking the position that energy security and indeed the American economy will just have to live with whatever results such a program produces,” the Department of Energy said.

The DOE also said the monetary and regulatory costs and burdens of giving EPA regulatory controls had not been “adequately explored or explained in the draft.”

“What should be crystal clear, however, is that the burdens will be enormous, they will fall on many entities not previously subject to direct regulation under the Act, and all of this will happen even though it is not clear what precise level of greenhouse gas emissions reduction … is being pursued.”

Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, said she was “horrified by what the EPA wants to do.”

“The regulatory approaches outlined in the [proposed rule] would represent an enormous and unprecedented economic blow to small businesses if enacted. It is clear that rogue bureaucrats designed this initiative. Reality is not represented in the document,” she said.

But California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a business-friendly Republican who has been supportive of Mr. Bush on many issues, voiced strong criticisms of the Bush administration for not taking more drastic action.

“This administration did not believe that [carbon dioxide] and greenhouse gases is a pollutant. They fought this in court and then finally the Supreme Court had to tell them, ‘Yes, it is a pollutant,’” he said during an interview taped for ABC News’ Sunday show, “This Week.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger also parted ways with the Bush administration’s stance that China and India must sign onto a global emissions agreement for the U.S. to do the same.

“We don’t wait for other countries to do the same thing. That’s what makes America number one,” the governor said.

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