For the first time ever, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared a naturally-occurring substance in the air a danger to human health.  Carbon dioxide, which has existed as a major component of Earth’s atmosphere for billions of years — and which is necessary for plant growth — is now a declared pollutant.  The determination gives the EPA wide-ranging authority over the operations of energy production and manufacturing:

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded greenhouse gases are endangering people’s health and must be regulated, signaling that the Obama administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary. …

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases released from power plants, factories and automobiles under the federal Clean Air Act.

The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had declined to aggressively pursue the issue.

Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.

The EPA and the Obama administration threatened to do this when their cap-and-trade bill first began to stall on Capitol Hill.  The determination of CO2 as a pollutant — which is patently ridiculous on its face — allows the White House to bypass Congress and begin dictating to producers on carbon-emission reductions.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking the EPA doesn’t understand the scope of its power.  By classifying CO2 and methane (among other so-called greenhouse gases, it can inject itself into just about every industry in the US.  Energy production will be its primary target, but the EPA has also gone after coal mining on the basis of the Clean Water Act; it will certainly not be shy about using this new authority to kill coal mining altogether.  It will also impact agriculture, especially dairies and cattle ranching, as well as transportation.  The entire manufacturing sector will have to answer for its output.

This really is the worst of all outcomes.  The EPA process can be restrained by Congress, but it will take positive action for that to happen — and in most cases, would take the assent of Barack Obama.  About the only way  Congress could stop the EPA’s effort to seize control of production without Obama would be to defund the agency, or at least its regulatory efforts.  That certainly won’t happen with the current Congress.