The Obama administration is moving through regulatory channels to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions after Congress failed to act on new legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a new plan for establishing greenhouse gas pollution standards under provisions of the Clean Air Act.
In an announcement posted late Thursday on EPA’s website, administrator Lisa Jackson said officials “are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way” to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. The new regulations will focus specifically on coal plants and oil refineries, two of the largest sources of greenhouse gases. It will propose standards for power plants by next July and for refineries a year from now.
As the EPA begins the regulation process, the battle-lines are beginning to take shape. The article below from the Wall Street Journal paints a scenario where business activity in the US will grind to a halt and the US economy will lose millions of jobs if the EPA is allowed to begin regulating GHG’s. This is the typical corporate ‘fear’ approach which we are beginning to see more and more often. However, there is relatively little discussion of the negative economic impact and loss of US competitiveness if the US is allowed to become an environmental back-water as the rest of the world moves forward in addressing this problem. In short, blind short-sighted corporate greed is making its voice heard in this conversation. As has happened many times in history, government is going to have to demand that corporations conduct themselves as good citizens – a role corporations, if left to do on their own, are unwilling to do.
From the Opinion Page of the Wall Street Journal
On Jan. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency will officially begin regulating the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This move represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs—unless Congress steps in.
This mess began in April 2007, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. The court instructed the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide pose (or potentially pose) a danger to human health and safety under the Clean Air Act. In December 2009 the agency determined they were a danger—and gave itself the green light to issue rules cutting CO2 emissions on a wide range of enterprises from coal plants to paper mills to foundries.
In response, states including Texas and Virginia, as well as dozens of companies and business associations, are challenging the EPA’s endangerment finding and proposed rules in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is currently considering a partial stay of the EPA’s rules and is expected to begin issuing decisions sometime in 2012.
The EPA, of course, is in a hurry to move ahead. It wants to begin regulating the largest emitters first. But it has the authority under its endangerment finding to regulate emissions by hospitals, small businesses, schools, churches and perhaps even single-family homes. As companies wait for definitive court rulings, the country could face a de facto construction moratorium on industrial facilities that could provide badly needed jobs. Moreover, the EPA has never completed an analysis of how many jobs might be lost in the process—although Section 321 of the Clean Air Act demands that it do so.
The best solution is for Congress to overturn the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations outright. If Democrats refuse to join Republicans in doing so, then they should at least join a sensible bipartisan compromise to mandate that the EPA delay its regulations until the courts complete their examination of the agency’s endangerment finding and proposed rules.
Like the plaintiffs, we have significant doubt that EPA regulations can survive judicial scrutiny. And the worst of all possible outcomes would be the EPA initiating a regulatory regime that is then struck down by the courts.
For the last year or so, some in Congress have considered mandating that the EPA delay its greenhouse-gas regulations by two years. But that delay is arbitrary—it was selected because a handful of Democrats needed political cover. There is no way to know whether two years will be sufficient time for the courts to complete their work.
Moreover, the principal argument for a two-year delay is that it will allow Congress time to create its own plan for regulating carbon. This presumes that carbon is a problem in need of regulation. We are not convinced.
Have your say – Is it in the best interest of the country (or the world for that matter) to let congress, a body which is going to be influenced to an even greater extent by corporate interests in the coming two years, to attempt to craft legislation to address this growing problem?