EPA: We Had to Destroy the Clean Air Act to Follow It

From The New York Times coverage of the EPA’s announcement of its intent to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, “E.P.A. Moves to Curtail Greenhouse Gas Emissions“:

The proposed rules, which could take effect as early as 2011, would place the greatest burden on 400 power plants, new ones and those undergoing substantial renovation, by requiring them to prove that they have applied the best available technology to reduce emissions or face penalties.

Ms. Jackson described the proposal as a common-sense rule tailored to apply to only the largest facilities — those that emit at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year — which are responsible for nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

But, as the AP story notes, the Clean Air Act usually applies to facilities that emit at least just 250 tons of carbon dioxide. There’s no provision in the statute that gives the EPA the authority to set an arbitrary higher figure, even though it might be politically expedient to target only largest industrial emitters of carbon dioxide. The pain and billions of dollars of costs are more diffuse that way.

But it’s just specious. The EPA’s logic boils down to this:

  • The Clean Air Act gives us the legal authority to regulate carbon dioxide from stationary sources.
  • So we are going to ignore the Clean Air Act in order to regulate carbon dioxide from stationary sources.


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