EPA grabs for global warming power

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010 12:00 am
By JEFF CRANK and PHIL KERPEN | AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY

After crashing into a brick wall of public opinion, the cap-and-trade energy tax that squeaked through the U.S. House last year now appears dead (or very nearly dead) in the U.S. Senate. Rather than accept defeat, however, the Obama administration has regrouped and developed a strategy to bypass Congress and implement their favored global warming policies through the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA has started developing and issuing global warming regulations under the 1970 Clean Air Act, the first steps toward a sweeping vision of government control that includes just about everything that moves and a lot of things that don’t. Given this threat, it’s not enough for Congress to simply reject cap-and-trade; it must proactively block the EPA’s regulatory power grab, or should suffer the blame for what EPA does.

EPA’s efforts are based on a legal theory originally conceived by now-White House Climate Czar Carol Browner in the late 1990s. A 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2007 in Massachusetts v. EPA took this concept from curiosity to reality. The EPA is now using the authority bestowed by the court in that case to implement what amounts to central economic planning, all in the name of global warming and without a vote of Congress.

Not only would motor vehicles be regulated, so would light-duty trucks, heavy-duty trucks, buses, motorcycles, planes, trains, ships, boats, tractors, mining equipment, RVs, lawn mowers, fork lifts and just about everything that has a motor. Because there is no control technology for greenhouse gases, the EPA would require complete redesigns and operational changes.

They would require permitting for businesses and structures that emit as little as 100 tons of greenhouse gases per year, although these regulations will be phased in over years, so smaller entities might initially think, incorrectly, that they have been spared.

Small businesses, restaurants, schools, and hospitals that have commercial kitchens with gas burners would all eventually be subject to onerous federal regulation.

Colorado officials are adamant the regulations are unworkable. Although he is generally supportive of greenhouse gas regulations, Paul Tourangeau, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division, said he “believes EPA has underestimated the permitting resources required to implement.”

He estimated a 40 percent increase in clean air permits, which “would result in a permitting backlog.”

Tourangeau concluded that “sources new to permitting will need more outreach and assistance understanding the regulations, more inspections to ensure compliance, and ultimately more enforcement.”

Even the 1970 Clean Air Act’s original author, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who supports cap-and-trade, says the EPA’s move is a recipe for disaster. He said: “We are looking at the possibility of a glorious mess being visited upon this country. This is not what was intended by the Congress and by those of us who wrote the Clean Air Act. We are beginning to look at a wonderfully complex world, which has the potential for shutting down or slowing down virtually all industry and all economic activity and growth.”

If it’s not bad enough that the Obama administration is bypassing Congress, consider that the woman overseeing the effort, Carol Browner, is a White House staffer not subject to Senate confirmation or oversight. That’s probably because after she left the Clinton administration, Browner became a member of the Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society, tangible evidence of her extremism that could have proven problematic politically.

So an unelected bureaucrat is overseeing an unaccountable bureaucracy to regulate the U.S. economy without a vote of Congress. But Congress doesn’t have to sit on the sideline.

The U.S. Senate will soon vote on a resolution sponsored by Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Senate Joint Resolution 26, that would overturn EPA’s global warming regulations and stop their power grab. It has bipartisan support from members with many different views of the underlying global warming issue.

We should all be able to agree that the EPA approach is a disaster, and any senator who votes against Murkowski’s resolution will have to explain to voters why they are outsourcing their legislative responsibility to EPA bureaucrats.

Jeff Crank is Colorado state director and Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy, both at Americans for Prosperity.

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