Only six years ago numerous Bush Administration agencies submitted reasons to reject a draft version of proposed EPA greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations under its Clean Air Act; these reasons have since been validated by reality.
A July 11, 2008, policy memorandum released by the Bush 43 White House elaborates critical assessments expressed by leading officials from organizations that include not only the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and Energy, but even the EPA Administrator and the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Policy.
President Bush expressed concern in April of that year with taking “laws written more than 30 years ago to primarily address local and regional environmental effects and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act is one of these laws.”
Bush warned that, “If stretched beyond its original intent, it would override legislation just enacted by Congress, requiring the government to regulate far more than merely power plant emissions or cars. This would turn the federal government, in effect, into the nation’s local planning and zoning board, regulating countless smaller users and producers of energy — from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings— with crippling effects on our economy.”
He said that “Decisions with such a far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges, but should be debated openly and made by the elected representatives of the people they affect.”
Then-EPA administrator Steve Johnson made it clear that his staff draft did not represent his organization’s policy. He agreed with the President that, “One point is clear: The potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land.”
Johnson also believed that the Clean Air Act was “an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects [and] is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases. Such a course of action would inevitably result in a very complicated, time-consuming and, likely, convoluted set of regulations.”
The Secretaries of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, and Agriculture all argued that applying Clean Air Act regulations to U.S. businesses in order to address global climate change would simply export economic activity and emissions to less-regulated countries and likely not actually generate any net reduction in worldwide GHG emissions.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez observed that reducing CO2 emissions up to 60% from 2000 levels by 2050 would greatly complicate preconstruction permitting requirements for modification or new construction to large office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings, and large retail facilities, demanding “a complete assessment of the costs and benefits of such an approach.”
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said that the EPA draft sought to “address global climate change through an enormously elaborate, complex, burdensome, and expensive regulatory regime that would not be assured of significantly mitigating global atmospheric GHG concentrations and global climate change” and that such an “extraordinarily burdensome and costly regulatory program under the Clean Air Act is not the right way to go.”
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters added: “It is an illusion to believe that a national consensus on climate policy can be forged via a Clean Air Act rulemaking . . . If implemented, the actions that the draft contemplates would significantly increase energy and transportation costs for the American people and U.S. industry with no assurance that the regulations would materially affect global greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations or emissions.”
Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer warned, “If agricultural producers were covered under such complex regulatory schemes, most (except perhaps the largest operations) would be ill-equipped to bear the costly burdens of compliance, and many would likely cease farming altogether.”
Edward Lazear, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, and John H. Marburger, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote that actions presented in the draft “will put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, will induce economic distortions and may actually be counterproductive in reducing GHGs.”
James Connaughton, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality, summed up circumstances we are currently witnessing as the Obama Administration uses the EPA to replace the will of Congress: “The staff draft employs a kitchen sink approach to the innumerable ways in which EPA would use the Clean Air Act to automatically or discretionarily regulate an unprecedented range of activities giving rise to greenhouse gas emissions.”
Connaughton admonished us to recognize that such actions would effectively override the deliberate, bipartisan decisions of elected federal and state legislatures on certain policies, and that a “case-by-case application of old regulations to an entirely new set of circumstances and parties foreshadows unrelenting confusion, conflicts over compliance, and decades-long litigation windfall for attorneys, consultants, and activists, as communities and the courts strive to sort it all out.”
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."