An EPA Power Grab
Environmental Protec tion Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson
yesterday an nounced that the EPA has determined that global warming,
allegedly caused by mankind's burning of fossil fuels, endangers public
The finding paves the way for a huge power grab by EPA bureaucrats -- indeed, more power than even they
think they can handle: The likely regulatory cascade will end up with
the EPA having complete control over the nation's energy supply and its
Large apartment buildings and hospitals would need EPA
operating permits to continue running their furnaces. Lawnmowers and
aircraft alike would be regulated for fuel economy like automobiles.
And as the EPA orders a retooling or even closure of the nation's power
plants, electricity prices would skyrocket, and blackouts would become
If you wanted to design an anti-stimulus package, you'd be hard-pressed to top this.
The EPA already holds massive power to stop energy projects. It has
used its regulatory powers to hold up the construction of new coal,
gas, nuclear and even renewable-power plants and
electricity-transmission lines around the country. The US Chamber of
Commerce's Project No Project Web site details hundreds of energy
projects that could be providing many thousands of good jobs, but are
now held up by regulatory delay (typically initiated by environmental
Yesterday's finding will much expand those powers. It
will trigger a regulatory avalanche that vastly expand the number of
activities that require EPA permitting -- fast-food franchises,
apartment buildings and hospitals will soon all have to face the same
crushing federal bureaucracy that has bedeviled energy firms for years.
Essentially, the EPA's claim that it is obliged to regulate
carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant will oblige it to impose costly,
time-consuming permitting requirements on 1) tens of thousands of
previously unregulated small businesses, under the Clean Air Act's
Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction
permitting program, and 2) millions of previously unregulated entities,
under the Title V operating-permits program.
recognizes the danger. It has issued a "tailoring rule" that warns that
if PSD and Title V are applied "literally" to CO2 emissions, the
permitting programs will crash under their own weight, construction
activity will grind to a screeching halt -- and millions of firms will
find themselves operating in legal limbo.
Realizing that this
would still produce a thunderous political backlash, the EPA wrote the
"tailoring rule" to limit its regulation of CO2 to facilities emitting
25,000 tons of gases a year -- even though the Clean Air Act requires
it to cover facilities emitting just 250 tons.
That is, the
EPA is trying to acquire the extra powers from the endangerment
finding, while avoiding the accompanying duty of regulating small
But this blatant maneuver is unlikely to withstand
legal challenge. The EPA will soon be blocking every new construction
project you can think of.
The endangerment finding comes at a
time when a batch of e-mails leaked from one of the most important
climate-science research units in Britain has put the underlying
science on which the finding is based under increased scrutiny.
The "Climategate" e-mails indicate likely manipulation of data, a
concerted effort to prevent publication of skeptical views in the
academic literature and an effort to hide data and methods in order to
prevent outside researchers from checking the British scientists'
results -- when such checking is the real test of knowledge in science.
The e-mails do not disprove that the world has been warming, or
that fossil fuels have something to do with it -- but they do cast
doubt on whether the current warming is in any way unusual.
That is an important consideration in deciding whether the current
warming endangers human health and welfare. EPA's decision to simply
ignore it and press forward with its endangerment finding represents a
premature rush to judgment. Thus, the finding is a purely political
That is why we at the Competitive Enterprise Institute
announced yesterday that we will file suit in federal court to overturn
the endangerment finding on the grounds that the EPA has ignored major
scientific issues, including but not limited to those raised recently
in the Climategate scandal.
But lawmakers shouldn't rely on
CEI to save America from the EPA's power grab. Congress should enact
legislation, such as that offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.),
to make it plain that the Clean Air Act applies to emissions that
directly threaten human health -- not ones that might be tied to
If Congress doesn't act, today's finding will
destroy any hope of economic recovery. Millions of jobless Americans
will have the EPA to thank for their misery.