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EPA’s Endangerment Finding: Legislative Hammer or Suicide Note?

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EPA’s Endangerment Finding: Legislative Hammer or Suicide Note?

Op-ed in The Washington Examiner

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EPA’s just-published endangerment finding puts a swagger in the step of
cap-and-tax advocates in the Administration, Congress, and environmental
groups. They believe the endangerment finding gives them a legislative hammer
with which to beat opponents into submission. This is too clever by half.

The endangerment finding—an official ruling that greenhouse gases, principally
carbon dioxide (CO2), threaten public health and welfare—is the Agency’s
response to the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts
v. EPA decision.

The endangerment finding will trigger a regulatory cascade through multiple
provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA), inflating consumer energy prices and
further de-stimulating the economy. So, it’s not surprising that Obama
officials, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and others think they can frighten
opponents into supporting, for example, Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) cap-and-tax
bill, which specifically exempts greenhouse gases from most CAA regulatory
programs.

But the cap-and-tax gang miscalculates, because pro-growth lawmakers are not
stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have a third option: Just say no to
cap-and-tax, let President Obama and his Congressional allies take ownership of
the regulatory morass EPA’s endangerment finding will spawn, and then
capitalize on the political backlash.

As University of Colorado climatologist Roger Pielke, Jr.
observes, “Far from being an incentive for Congress to act on its own, the
looming possibility that EPA will take regulatory action is a strong incentive
for Republicans to stalemate Congressional action and a nightmare scenario for
Democrats.”

Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute agrees. Threatening to sic
EPA on the economy is tantamount to promising to commit political suicide. Team
Obama, he says, might as well tell Republicans and moderate Democrats, “Don’t
make me raise energy prices! You’ll really be in trouble with your voters when
I raise their energy prices!”

Pro-growth lawmakers need to clear their minds and see the endangerment finding
for the unexpected political opportunity it is. The following mantra may be
helpful: “I will not reward the Obama-Boxer campaign of legislative extortion;
I will not rescue the cap-and-tax gang from the political retribution that is
their due; I will let the CO2-litigation lobby dig its own political grave.”

Marlo Lewis is a senior fellow at the
Competitive Enterprise Institute and a contributor to Globalwarming.org.