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December 13, 2009
EPA carbon regs may derail cap and trade
The EPA's threat to impose greenhouse gas regulations, hanging like a Sword of Damocles over Congress, may have backfired.
The Obama administration's announcement of the EPA "endangerment finding" for CO2, timed to coincide with the start of the Copenhagen climate talks, was intended to allow the President to claim his country was on board with the international climate agenda. However, the EPA may have inadvertently given Congress an out on cap-and-trade legislation.
Kimberly Strassel's Wall Street Journal column, descriptively titled "The EPA's Carbon Bomb Fizzles" paints an intriguing scenario:
In the high-stakes game of chicken the Obama White House has been playing with Congress over who will regulate the earth's climate, the president's team just motored into a ditch. So much for threats...
The closer the November election gets, the less the Senate will like this issue. And the pressure may be off Congress for a time, since the EPA could now be viewed as the owner of an increasingly unpopular idea:
"The Obama administration now owns this political hot potato," says one industry source. "If I'm [Nebraska Senator] Ben Nelson or [North Dakota Senator] Kent Conrad, why would I ever want to take it back?"
The endangerment finding and the proposed EPA regulations are likely to set off a flood of litigation. Use of the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 as a pollutant invites challenge by industry groups. On the other side, the EPA attempt to limit regulation to the largest producers invites environmentalist lawsuits to force the EPA to regulate all sources, large and small, right down to the home lawn mower.
As the Strassel column notes, "the agency is going to get hit from all sides," which will at a minimum complicate implementation of the EPA rules.
Then there are the leaked Climategate e-mails, inviting challenge to the science, and a related column by a Colorado State professor of Atmospheric Science said of the international climate conspiracy:
This conspiracy would become much more manifest if all the e-mails of the publicly funded climate research groups of the US and of foreign governments were ever made public.
Never underestimate the desire of Congress to run with a bad idea, but the EPA's stake in the ground, added to the Climategate issue and a very close House vote, may have handed some Democrat Senators a breather from an unpalatable vote on cap-and-trade in an already difficult election year.
To borrow from Robert Burns:
The best laid schemes o' mice and central planners...