Washington, D.C., April 17, 2009—A just-published major ruling on the health and welfare implications of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions was announced Friday by the Obama administration. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a ruling—called an “endangerment finding”—to compel EPA to establish greenhouse gas emission standards for new motor vehicles.
“The endangerment finding will set the stage for an economic train wreck and a constitutional crisis,” warned eight free-market groups in an April 15 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Establishing greenhouse gas emission standards for new motor vehicles will make an estimated 1.2 million previously unregulated entities (office buildings, big box stores, even commercial kitchens) vulnerable to new controls, paperwork, penalties, and litigation. “A more potent Anti-Stimulus Package would be difficult to imagine,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis.
“Once EPA pushes the start button, the logic of the law takes over, obligating EPA to regulate in very intrusive and heavy-handed ways,” said Lewis. To contain the economic fallout from an endangerment finding, EPA would have to play lawmaker and amend the Clean Air Act, violating the separation of powers. Yet allowing the statutory logic to unfold would impose regulatory burdens never approved by Congress. “Either option flouts basic precepts of our constitutional system,” said Lewis.
“The Administration will bear responsibility for any increase in consumer energy costs, unemployment, and GDP losses resulting from [Clean Air Act] regulation of CO2,” the letter warned.
The EPA ruling responds to Massachusetts v. EPA, which held that greenhouse gases fall within regulatory purview of the Clean Air Act. But the Supreme Court also said that EPA does not have to issue an endangerment finding if it provides statutory reasons why it cannot or will not make such a determination.