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Obama and the Bureaucrazies.
The EPA, Greenhouse Gases, and the Clean Air Act
Recently, in the 112th Congress, Rep. Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, and Senator Inhofe introduced legislation aimed at reining in the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. Those on the left and at the EPA believe that the agency has the authority to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) through the Clean Air Act, which was passed by Congress in the 1970’s and amended in the 1990’s. The goal of the Upton-Inhofe legislation is to remind the EPA they have no such authority under the Clean Air Act. Yet even if they did possess such power, would the GHG regulations even compliment the political goals of the Obama Administration; or do we just have one of many examples of a “bureaucrazy”?
The CAA passed in the 1970’s was specifically targeted at reducing the emission of 6 types of air pollutants that were having adverse effects on urban health and infrastructure. Since then these pollutants (particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead) have been effectively reduced to more tolerable levels. The problem at hand is that the EPA is seeking its regulatory authority to include GHGs; regulations that are not specified by the CAA nor requested of the EPA by Congress. It is widely accepted that GHG regulations would yield adverse economic effects across the board from manufacturing to transportation and electric power production. This magnitude of the economic consequences of GHG regulations makes it important for the creation of such rules to come from the Congress, the representatives of the American people – not unelected bureaucrats at the EPA. Congress has yet to approve any regulatory authority; nonetheless the EPA has created numerous initiatives targeting GHG emissions expanding control over GHG regulatory policy. Some have even suggested that the EPA already has a mandate to regulate GHGs via the CAA. This is simply not true and is why the Upton-Inhofe bill is so important. The text of the legislation clearly states that the EPA will continue to regulate the pollutants specified under the articles and amendments of the CAA, but does not provide the authority to regulate the emission of GHGs such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. One of the key architects of the Clean Air Act, Representative John Dingell (D) even recently admitted that the EPA’s attempt to unilaterally impose CO2 regulations under the CAA would create a “glorious mess”.
Many have lambasted Chairman Upton and others over this bill, claiming that the bill only serves to hamper the EPA’s ability to keep the air clean. The American Lung Association has even gone so far as to accuse “some in Congress” of causing more asthma attacks and “premature deaths” by “weakening the Clean Air Act.” “The enactment of Chairman Fred Upton's bill would strip away Clean Air Act protections that safeguard Americans and their families from air pollution that puts their lives at risk,” said Charles D. Connor, CEO of the American Lung Association.
The bill only prevents the growth of EPA power, it does not reduce it. The EPA continues to have the authority to regulate the six criteria pollutants the CAA explicitly targets. Upton-Inhofe clarifies that the EPA must focus on these and not pursue increased power under the CAA to regulate GHGs.
The fact of the matter is that the CAA and the EPA have specific goals set out by Congress to reduce emission into the air of particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead. There have been significant improvements with respect to all of these, yet the EPA appears intent on expanding its costly regulatory regime.
Further attention is called to the EPAs push against Upton-Inhofe and towards GHG regulation by the overall agenda of the Obama Administration. President Obama has consistently touted his role as a champion of the middle class, yet his people at the EPA seem to be pushing for regulations that hit the middle class the hardest.
A CBO report on a proposed piece of Cap and Trade legislation contained this chart detailing the impact that GHG regulation would have on Americans based on their income level:
The first set of bars is particularly telling; it shows the distributution of the compliance costs to greenhouse gas regulations. The largest effect is on the lower income groups, who spend a larger portion of their income on energy. The second set of bars can be ignored, since they represent transfers the original legislation included to offset the acknowledged impact on lower income groups. The EPA has no authority to provide offsets, so the impact of their regulations on lower income groups will be unmitigated.
We have 2008 Candidate, President, and 2012 Candidate Obama who has and surely will continue to campaign as a Robin Hood economics champion. Yet at the same time, the EPA under Obama’s appointed Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is becoming more and more aggressive in support of GHG regulation and ignoring Congressional efforts to consider the harmful economic repercussions of GHG regulations on lower and middle class income groups.
The EPA, as a part of President Obama’s Administration, seeks to impose regulation that is neither congressionally mandated nor favorable to most Americans. So the question therefore becomes: is Obama losing control of his own administration or is he willing to impose significant new economic burdens on the lower income groups that he has championed? One thing is certain: we have a bureaucrazy on our hands.