Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The EPA Strikes a Blow for Obama and Against the Economy

From Fox News:

The Obama administration is warning Congress that if it doesn't move to regulate greenhouse gases, the Environmental Protection Agency will take a "command-and-control" role over the process in a way that could hurt business.

The warning, from a top White House economic official who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity, came on the eve of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's address to the international conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Jackson, however, tried to strike a tone of cooperation in her address Wednesday, explaining that the EPA's new powers to regulate greenhouse gases will be used to complement legislation pending in Congress, not replace it.

"This is not an 'either-or' moment. It's a 'both-and' moment," she said.

But while administration officials have long said they prefer Congress take action on climate change, the economic official who spoke with reporters Tuesday night made clear that the EPA will not wait and is prepared to act on its own.

And it won't be pretty.

"If you don't pass this legislation, then ... the EPA is going to have to regulate in this area," the official said. "And it is not going to be able to regulate on a market-based way, so it's going to have to regulate in a command-and-control way, which will probably generate even more uncertainty." ( emphasis added)

I believe that is what we call “a threat.” The EPA is telling Congress that if they don’t regulate emissions that the EPA will do it for them, the economy be damned. This move by the Jackson and the EPA didn’t come out of the blue though the timing, Jackson’s protestations aside, is suspect. Back in February, the New York Times wrote:

If the environmental agency determines that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant to be regulated under the Clean Air Act, it would set off one of the most extensive regulatory rule makings in history. Ms. Jackson knows that she would be stepping into a minefield of Congressional and industry opposition and said that she was trying to devise a program that allayed these worries.

Well, Jackson has stepped in to the minefield and she is firing a peremptory shot across the Congress’s bow. Further in the Times story:

…many Democrats from states dependent on coal-generated electricity and manufacturing jobs, where such regulation could significantly increase costs. Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who has long championed the interests of the auto industry, said that the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by the E.P.A. would set off a “glorious mess” that would resonate throughout the economy.

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, warned Ms. Jackson during her January confirmation hearing that she should not undercut Congress’s authority by using the agency’s regulatory power to address global warming. Mr. Barrasso called the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon “a disaster waiting to happen.”

This move provides Obama with political cover. Just as he has distanced himself from unpopular decisions by the Justice Department by claiming that Holder is working independent of the White House, he will be claim that the EPA is also working on its own. Granted, this is the EPA’s end run, but it is purely for President Obama’s benefit.

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