Move-On, a far-left political advocacy organization, is running a media campaign claiming that Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu supports dirty air. In addition to being reprehensible -- the television ad actually insinuates that Landrieu is forcing cigarettes on pregnant women -- Move-On's facts are way off.
Sen. Landrieu isn't trying to "roll back" the Clean Air Act, as Move-On claims. Rather, she wants to restore it to its original meaning. The act was written in 1970, at a time when scientists fretted about global cooling. Now the Obama administration is trying to use it to stop global warming. But Congress never intended for the Act to regulate greenhouse gases thought to cause climate change, and for good reason -- doing so would create a regulatory quagmire. Landrieu sponsors a bill that would block Obama's power grab by stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Act.
Instead of insults from the likes of Move-On, Landrieu deserves plaudits. After all, she is trying to save the American economy from catastrophe. The 1970 Act was designed to regulate smog, not greenhouse gases, and there is a huge difference in scale between the two types of "pollutants." Whereas an industrial smog polluter emits hundreds of tons in a year, even a moderately sized building can emit an equivalent quantity of greenhouse gas. As such, virtually every mansion, apartment, and office would become subject to EPA inspectors, if the Act were to apply to greenhouse gases. It would be a nightmare.
That's why members of Congress never have voted to include greenhouse gases in the Act. The Supreme Court, however, bizarrely ruled in 2007 (Massachusetts v EPA) that the Act could apply to greenhouse gases.
Even the EPA admits that regulating greenhouse gases under the Act is "absurd." To avoid having to shackle the entire economy, the EPA wants to increase the threshold for the regulation of greenhouse gas "pollution" under the Act. According to the text of the legislation, a polluter is subject to regulation if it emits 250 tons. The EPA is requesting that the minimum be raised to 25,000 tons for greenhouse gases. Otherwise, the EPA argues, it will be forced to regulate almost everything, which would be, the EPA concedes, "absurd." But it's not that simple. The EPA is part of the executive branch of government, and it is unconstitutional for the executive to legislate. The EPA's attempt to alter the text of the Act flies in the face of the separation of powers, one of America's founding political principles. There will be lawsuits, and it's unclear whether the EPA's quick fix can survive a legal challenge. If the courts rule that the EPA overreached, the American economy will become subject to an unprecedented regulatory onslaught.
Why is Obama risking an economic catastrophe? It all boils down to crass politics. Obama campaigned on a promise to deliver a "cap-and-trade" program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Congress is lukewarm to the idea because it would hurt the economy. So the president devised a high-stakes game of chicken.
President Obama is playing brinkmanship with the U.S. economy. Landrieu deserves credit for trying to disarm the President's weapon of mass-economic destruction.