On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hear an important case, Murray Energy v. EPA, regarding what used to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming agenda. At issue are sweeping rules that amount to rewriting the Clean Air Act, an effort made necessary when Congress, via the proper democratic process, rejected turning that act into a global warming law for rationing our most abundant sources of energy.
The reason behind Congress rejecting the scheme also explains President Obama’s effort this past week to sway the court, indicating in an interview widely promoted by the White House that global warming possibly caused his daughter Malia’s asthma.
This may seem a stretch given that since Malia was born in 1998, the earth has experienced no increase in mean temperature. Such a link is at best highly tenuous, particularly given that one of Malia’s parents (Mr. Obama) was a smoker.
Neither the public nor Congress has bought into the global warming alarmism, so Mr. Obama has decided it is instead about asthma. Not that anything the EPA proposes would detectably impact the climate (it wouldn’t, as the agency itself admits). Hence, the breathtaking transformation of these air quality rules into, of all things, a crusade against asthma.
Documents I recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act lay out just how we went from forestalling the end of the world — which, administration officials also acknowledge, didn’t poll well — to something with which the rules at issue have little to nothing to do. Instead, at root these rules are about Mr. Obama’s vows to cause “electricity rates [to] necessarily skyrocket,” efforts to “bankrupt” coal, and finally make renewable energy “the profitable kind of energy.”
Mr. Obama is succeeding on two of those three counts even though the new EPA rules have not taken effect yet. With plants closing, the reliability of our electricity generation and delivery system threatened, and communities being crushed, you might wonder whether those are proper objectives for the government’s police power.
That is a legitimate legal question not presently before the court but one that Mr. Obama’s zealous agenda certainly begs. Regardless, by statute Clean Air Act cases go straight to the D.C. Circuit and, over the EPA’s objections, it was owing to the damage is already being done that the court accepted Murray Energy’s “extraordinary writ” to hear the case now.
The issue is whether the EPA exceeding its authority. In 2009, when the House passed a bill to allow the EPA’s adventurism, the public blowback was so severe that the Harry Reid-controlled Senate let the matter die. That same year, EPA senior communications adviser Allyn Brooks-Lasure sent a memo to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson explaining the need to “shift from making [the global warming agenda] about the polar caps [to] about our neighbor with respiratory illness.”
In essence, he wrote, “Americans are worried about the air they’re breathing. We hear them. And this is why we’re doing [this]. This is part of EPA’s proactive mission to protect Americans.”
He continued: “[W]e must begin to create a causal link between the worries of Americans and the proactive mission we’re pursuing,” and using “effective communications and a proactive agenda, we can directly address concerns that haunt the majority of Americans.” EPA’s public relations adviser called the switch “a tremendous opportunity for this agency.”
I obtained this memo under FOIA early this year. Then, late last month, I received further documentation of this craven campaign. In a late January 2011 email, the Natural Resources Defense Council provided EPA officials with “confidential” messaging data to help advance their ideologically aligned agenda.
NRDC claimed that the Environmental Defense Fund had already presented the information to Obama adviser David “Axelrod and a couple other [White House] staff (at their request).” NRDC attached a “topline memo” detailing what messages to use — in short, recast global warming policy as a solution to air pollution. It similarly noted the American Lung Association polled as the most trusted organization to lead a campaign.
When the EPA rolled out these rules last June, it did so via a call with the president hosted by the American Lung Association.
The reason the Obama administration’s global warming agenda, which few claim would have an impact on global warming under any scenario, is now a strategy for fighting asthma is simple: Americans struggling to breathe polls better than a theory that has suffered greatly from scientific scandals and, of course, real-world observations proving that the computer models on which the agenda was premised are wrong.
Officials believe if they yell “clean air” and “children” loud enough, they and their environmentalist partners will have their way.
Health certainly polls better than candid admissions about desiring to bankrupt an industry that keeps the lights on and makes us richer, freer and safer but is now politically disfavored by the ideological left for reasons that surely include its abundance.
Bear this in mind when you hear the media and White House defend these air quality rules that poll well with green pressure group but reveal a troubling disconnect from good governance.
• Chris Horner is an attorney in Washington D.C. representing various conservative and libertarian public interest groups.