Monday, September 7, 2009

There is far more to the story “EPA proposes emission limits on big polluters” (Nation, Thursday), announcing an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to cap emissions of the “greenhouse gas” carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is of course produced overwhelmingly by nature, but also by man, so whether emitting CO2 makes one a “polluting source” I leave between your readers exhaling it and the plants that depend upon it for life. More important is what this unlawful effort reveals.

As your readers might be aware, Congress and the Obama administration are threatening to sic EPA and these rules on the regulated community if business doesn’t cut some legislative deal accepting the “cap-and-trade” energy tax. In seeking that political cover for this agenda, therefore, they are selling cap-and-trade as a managed form of the regulatory chaos this agenda represents — a scheme that a federal court recently ruled EPA has no authority to create on its own. So, the logic goes, capitulate on cap-and-trade or take your chances with an uncontrollable regulator. That’s the first cynical element of this proposal.

The second element is that the same court also ruled that EPA cannot do what it, incredibly, proposes doing here, which is to rewrite the Clean Air Act to fit its agenda. The section that EPA invokes in the proposal you describe indicates clearly that donut shops, office buildings, nearly every business of any size and even some residences would be covered by a “global warming” regulation if they emit a miniscule 250 tons of CO2 per year. This, of course, would be economic and therefore political suicide, so EPA waves its arrogant wand claiming it can unilaterally raise this for “greenhouse gases” to 25,000 tons per year. Surely they’ll be sued, right?

Well, that is the final craven aspect of the story left out of The Washington Times’ coverage: EPA is counting on green groups winking and not suing to make EPA do what the law says. In fact, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson telegraphed this deal earlier in the year, when she told the Senate Environment Committee that she would talk to these green groups, boasting of the administration’s close relationship with them, asking that they let it slide. Confident that the donut shops won’t sue out of principle to demand the government bankrupt them, EPA seems to believe it has rigged a very clever scheme.

This is extra-legal, unconstitutional government at its most obscene. At a minimum, Republicans should make this rule a campaign issue for 2010, promising to reject it under the rarely used Congressional Review Act. Of course, achieving that vote would require a change of management. That is the story that really needs to be told.


Senior Fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute


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