One step forward, two steps back on EPA overreach

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s start with the bad news. It’s a couple days old, and you need only check the glee at enviro-blogs and Kos to see how unfortunate it is for those of us who like freedom, a thriving economy, and the prosperity they provide.


The Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to consider reducing the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set air quality standards, leaving intact a tough new limit on sulfur dioxide emissions in a victory for the Obama administration…

“The EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases during Obama’s first term have been upheld in court, which is a favorable sign for proponents of climate change regulation,” said David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, in a telephone interview.

The decision certainly strengthens the hand of this rarely rebuked White House, which prefers to make sweeping changes in law without bothering with legislation, anyway. And, while the administration is remaking large parts of the economy via regulation, not legislation, it keeps the country in the dark by ignoring its legal requirement to put forth a unified regulatory agenda twice a year. When the federal government refuses (for the first time since the requirement became law by the way) to provide even basic transparency in its regulatory process, guess who suffers most? Hint: It’s not giant corporations and rich actors with well-funded lobbyists in positions to know what’s coming without the publishing of a unified agenda.

Nicolas Loris of The Heritage Foundation does the cost-benefit analysis on the Obama administration’s actions and finds them wanting:

Even though legislative attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have repeatedly failed, the Obama Administration appears bent on traveling this self-defeating path. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior, and the Department of Labor are all promulgating stringent emission standards for new power plants that would effectively prohibit construction of new coal-fired electricity generating capacity unless it is equipped with carbon-capture technology—a prohibitively costly technological requirement. The EPA has also introduced costly new air quality standards for hydraulically fractured wells and new fuel efficiency standards that will raise the cost of cars and light-duty trucks, not to mention make them smaller and less safe.

Restricting greenhouse gas emissions, whether unilaterally or multilaterally, will result in significant economic costs for the U.S. economy. This is a serious decision with grave consequences, and Congress needs to step up to prevent these costly, ineffective backdoor policies. Further, the U.S. must not unilaterally assume these burdens as a symbolic gesture hoping that other countries might emulate our example—repeated U.N. negotiations demonstrate the small likelihood of that outcome.

But there is some good news. It seems there is still something that exceeds the EPA’s power:

A federal appeals court will not reconsider a decision blocking an Obama administration effort to tighten restrictions on power plant pollution.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the administration’s request for a new hearing on Thursday. The court said a majority of its eight active judges opposed rehearing the case.

A three-judge judge panel ruled in August that the Environmental Protection Agency’s cross-state air pollution rule exceeded EPA’s authority. The EPA had said the rule would reduce power-plant pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in neighboring states.

The appeals court panel faulted the EPA for imposing “massive emissions reduction requirements” on upwind states without regard to limits imposed by law.

A spokeswoman for the EPA, Alisha Johnson, says the agency is reviewing the decision.