The Relative Comment

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Protecting EPA’s Regulatory Authority

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Relative to: the GOP plan to strip EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases.

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. This authority went into effect at the beginning of 2011, when EPA began regulating oil refineries, power plants and other major GHG emitters. Not surprisingly, such regulation is unpopular.

Politico today writes about the closed-door, invitation-only meetings being held to undo EPA’s authority.  According to the piece, GOP officials, industry officials, and energy lobbyists are strategizing about how to undo all EPA authority over GHG regulation. Some of the options: delay the EPA’s ability to curb emissions for two years (Sen. Rockefeller); strip the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions (Con. Upton);  and the motherload, restrict all federal agencies ability to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and NEPA, including removing states’ rights to regulate industry, and removing “public nuisance litigation related to climate change” (Sen. Barrasso-Wyoming).

In the face of these legislative “solutions” to climate change regulation, one must hope that the Obama Administration will veto, veto, veto. There are democrats who will support these measures (Rockefeller, for example), as well as continue to make climate change legislation impossible.  The arguments against EPA cite economics and jobs and the current recession, but leaves unmentioned the sacrosanct nature of protecting the industries which are making the planet unlivable. In essence, the arguments ignore science and reason, and believe only that the status quo should be maintained.

Any argument to the contrary is simply not given an invitation to the meeting. The idea that regulation of GHGs honestly improves the future well-being of literally everyone gets no mention, because it is easy to say that science is wrong and climate change is false. The notion that a new infrastructure–transportation, energy, broadband, etc– for a new century is required, the old one is literally crumbling,  and that such development provides much needed jobs is disregarded  as government expansion and socialism, ignoring the fact that our country is built on these government initiatives in the first place.

The United States is ten years, at least, overdue in passing serious climate change legislation. Now, in 2011, with no prospect of congress being able to take the kind of  action needed, all we have left is the regulatory authority granted the EPA by our courts. There is a “too late” point on this issue. It may have already passed, but if it hasn’t, we need to maintain the only oversight we have for an industry that, even with regulation, largely operates on its own whims. The United States needs to bring climate change back into the conversation, and recognize that our current economic situation is not a reason to avoid necessary change but to embrace it.


Written by Christopher ZF

January 20, 2011 at 11:38

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