Last month, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson responded to Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) questions about potential greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act. A careful reading of Jackson’s answers shows that EPA’s threats to use the Clean Air Act to force nationwide greenhouse gas reductions are a paper tiger and, if implemented, such actions will not result in any substantive decrease in greenhouse gas emissions during president Obama’s term.
Recall that there are two routes available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The first is “cap and trade,” along the lines of the Waxman-Markey bill that is currently stalled in the Senate. This is the method that environmentalists and their supporters in Congress prefer, for a couple of reasons. Cap and trade would attach monetary value to waste by-products, chiefly carbon dioxide and methane, and would allow certain carbon speculators – the name Al Gore springs immediately to mind – to grab even more cash in the resultant massive redistribution of wealth.
Equally important, cap and trade could be implemented relatively quickly. The Clean Air Act is a terribly clunky bit of legislation that has been amended a number of times since it was initially passed in its current form in 1970. Creating greenhouse gas regulations under that Clean Air Act would take a lot longer than alarmists are willing to wait, given that this year, like every year, represents the last chance to act “before it’s too late.”
The Clean Air Act limits EPA’s regulatory authority to “command and control” measures. That is, the agency has to go through an exhaustive process to determine appropriate control technologies, promulgate rules that set limits on emissions for different industry sectors and then incorporate those limits into individual permits that govern the operations of each and every facility subject to the rule in question. Industry hates command and control, because it’s a much more intrusive means of regulation, as compared to trading programs. Thus, EPA and the Obama administration have wielded the possibility of implanting command and control type greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act as a cudgel, not because they actually want to go through the Clean Air Act process, but because it’s a convenient threat designed to force some version of cap and trade through Congress.
Senator Rockefeller’s letter to Jackson contained a number of questions that appeared designed to call the Agency’s bluff. Indeed, Rockefeller raised a number of the same issues that I raised when I wrote about this issue on these very pages not so long ago. Reading Jackson’s careful, somewhat tepid, answers to Rockefeller’s queries, one is not left with the impression of an administrator happily charging forward with a new batch of planet-saving regulations. Rather, it appears to me that Jackson is de facto admitting – albeit reluctantly – that there is little that EPA can do about greenhouse gas emissions in the short term if a cap and trade bill doesn’t come through. Consider a few salient points:
Given the stunning revelations over the last few months about the bullying, misrepresentation and outright fraud that characterize a disturbing portion of international climate change science, it’s not at all surprising to find that Obama’s EPA is desperately hoping to influence the Congressional agenda on the issue.
However, Lisa Jackson’s less-than-convincing arguments with respect to controlling greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act do nothing to help the alarmist cause. It has quite the opposite effect: Jackson’s official response to the queries posed by a coal-state Senator who belongs to her administration’s party shows that this EPA administrator knows that she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.