Congress, courts must help Trump drain EPA swamp

Time to reverse the "endangerment" finding on carbon dioxide -- for starters

It’s far too early to gloat about glimmers of hope that a Trump Administration sea change will finally reverse a rising tide of contrived climate alarm-premised regulatory assaults on fossil energy. Whereas encouraging White House staff appointments and executive orders come and go, any long-term win will require more durable congressional legislative actions.

A good start would clarify that the Clean Air Act was never meant to authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate plant-nourishing CO2 as a “climate pollutant.” As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recently pointed out, “When Congress authorized the regulation of pollutants, what it had in mind were substances like sulfur dioxide, or particulate matter — basically, soot or smoke in the air. Congress was not thinking about carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.”

Nor is there even any tenable scientific evidence that a “climate crisis” warranting costly government interventions exists — and there is certainly no remotely credible climate scientist “”consensus” polls suggesting that we humans are causing one.

Consistently overheated computer model projections indicate otherwise.

Even the alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s own 2001 Assessment Report concludes, “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

As for saving the planet, Obama EPA administrator Gina McCarthy admitted during a 2015 House hearing that the agency’s then-proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) wouldn’t have any measurable impact on global warming. Instead, she said that success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion” at the Paris climate conference.

The EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, has fortunately committed to withdrawing the CPP (which is also temporarily blocked by a U.S. Supreme Court stay pending judicial review in the D.C. circuit court).

It remains uncertain whether President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will also untangle the U.S. from terms of the Paris deal.

President Trump’s rollback of the CPP, the centerpiece of the Obama war on coal agenda, is a great start in reining in burdensome regulatory lunacy which has virtually nothing to do with climate or public health.

He has issued other important energy-related priorities and directives as well:

  • The Interior Department has been instructed to lift its current moratorium on federal coal leasing, and also to loosen restrictions on oil and gas development (including methane flaring) on federal lands.
  • Climate change factoring will no longer be applied to guidance rules applied to coal leasing and new pipeline permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • Although the Trump EPA will review and likely weaken Obama’s fuel economy standards for cars and trucks in the post-2022 period, it can’t kill them altogether.
  • The Trump Administration is taking a cool fiscal position regarding funding global warming alarm-driven regulatory agendas. Politicized EPA, NASA, NOAA, and DOE programs will be targeted for special discipline. EPA’s climate protection budget may be cut by nearly 70% to $29 million.
  • The Pruitt EPA will recalculate Obama’s junk science-based “social cost of carbon.” Perhaps the new cost-benefit projections will consider the widespread increase of CO2-fertilized greening over 25% to 50% of the planet’s global vegetated area over the past 35 years as revealed by satellite imagery.

Of course all of these initiatives are but perishable fixes to persistent trends which can be reversed yet again by another president’s policies and pen strokes. Many will also encounter years of legal challenges from powerful, heavily funded environmental organizations in collaboration with friendly activist cohort courts.

Any lasting effort to rein in unfettered EPA overreach will require Congress to legislate that the Clean Air Act was never intended to address climate change policies.

Previous lack of clarity on this matter influenced a 2007 Supreme Court ruling (Massachusetts v. EPA), which gave EPA the authority, but not the obligation, to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The EPA wasted no opportunity or time seizing upon that U.S. Supreme Court decision to enact a 2009 “endangerment finding” by conflating human CO2 emissions with real air pollutants that everyone should care about.

That regulation contagion has spread to infect more than a dozen other federal agencies.

Referring to this regulatory lunacy, Justice Alito warned, “Now, if the administrative agency [EPA] can do that, I don’t know what an administrative agency cannot do. Lawmaking power has been transferred from Congress to the executive.”

Alito cited the EPA’s overreach through obscure and absurd legal interpretations of “navigable waterways” under a water rule as another example. Pointing out that everyone, including Congress, assumed that this authority referred to rivers and lakes, he asks,” But what about a stream that is dry for most of the year? What about an irrigation ditch? What about a soggy backyard?”

Yes, and also, what about draining those politically polluted EPA swamps?

Any long-term plan will require Congress to levy watershed legislation ending EPA abuses of the Clean Air Act.

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About the Author: Larry Bell

Larry Bell

CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."