Obama Renews Climate Change Fight, His EPA Wages War On State Sovereignty

In a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University, President Obama laid out his case for immediate action on global warming climate change, announcing a broad new climate action plan. This plan will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to “put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.” What Obama didn’t mention, though, was that the EPA has already been radically expanded since he took office in 2009, with the net result of a significant reduction of local input and control at the state level. Indeed, state sovereignty has taken a major blow at the hands of the unelected bureaucrats of the EPA, which has led to much lower local input on what is typically a local problem – air quality and pollution. The results have been disastrous – more policymaking at the hands of bureaucrats in a faraway capitol combined with a less effective and responsive environmental policy at the local level.

A new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) lays out, in stark detail, the deleterious effects of this rampant expansion of the EPA. The introduction lays out the original intent of the EPA:

Congress had a vision for national environmental policymaking when it created the U.S. Environ­mental Protection Agency (EPA). It is known as co­operative federalism. In practice, cooperative federalism meant that the EPA and states worked together in order to effectively balance economic progress with environmen­tal protection.

Congress intended for states to be first among equals in this federalist arrangement. In the preamble of the Clean Air Act, Congress explained that “air pollution preven­tion…at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments.” And, according to the opening of the Clean Water Act, “It is the policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibili­ties and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution.”

It goes on to remind the reader that the preponderance of pollution and the resulting environmental impacts are a local problem, and that the people best equipped and informed to fight these problems are local officials. And that’s what Congress intended when first forming the EPA, to set standards that local officials would then implement, with technical and financial support from the EPA.

Under the Obama administration, however, this balance has been altered to give EPA much more dictatorial power over the states:

… the agency has expanded its own prerogatives, at the expense of the states’ rightful authority. Congress wanted states to quarterback environ­mental policymaking, but the EPA has pushed them to the bench. The EPA is replacing cooperative federalism with command and con­trol. Since 2009, EPA regulatory disapprovals are up 190 percent relative to the average during the previous three presidential terms. EPA takeovers of state programs are up 2,750 percent.

Of course, in his speech Tuesday, Obama laid out the case that climate change is a global problem requiring immediate action. This presumably justifies the suspension of any state sovereigny, local control or limits on federal power as wielded by the EPA. In other words, never let a good crisis go to waste.

But it gets worse – that’s just the first section of the report. ALEC’s report on the EPA contains five other sections detailing EPA overreach that consolidates more power to the federal government at the expense of local control. And more of that power is being spread around to radical environmental groups, further eroding state involvement in environmental policymaking. The second section of the report describes in detail the practice of Sue and Settle being utilized by such groups as the Sierra Club: “friendly lawsuits that go straight to settlement dis­cussions, during which the EPA and the environmentalist litigants negotiate policy.” Such a practice has become so commonplace that state officials and lawmakers are now routinely shut out of the process of setting their own environmental standards.

The next section of the report describes the EPA’s pending rule to expand its own jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act by reinterpreting the term “navigable waters”. This new rule would give the EPA sole jurisdiction over “virtually every drop of water in America.” 

And it goes on. Several more sections discuss how an increasingly out of control EPA will rewrite the federal regulations over ozone, local electricity production, and the oil and gas production that Obama ironically touted as an engine of our economy.

The bottom line to this report is to echo the reaction to Obama’s speech – that he is waging war on energy and on jobs. But it goes much deeper than that. He and his expanded bureaucracies are waging war on our very way of life, seeking every possible opportunity to consolidate power at the federal level, and to remove the rights of Americans to make decisions about their land, their air, and their water at both a personal and local government level.