White House Issues Economically Ruinous “Endangerment” Rule

by William Yeatman on December 7, 2009

Today the Obama administration issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases “endanger” health and human welfare. Here’s an wonky explanation of why this is a big deal:

Under the Clean Air Act, an “endangerment” finding means that the EPA will have to grant a waiver to those states (such as California) that want to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The EPA has already agreed to do so. When “pollutants” that “endanger” human health and welfare are regulated, the EPA must expand its regulatory program to include “stationary” sources. The EPA has already announced that it will do so.

This is where Obama wants to get off the “endangerment” train, with the ability to regulate stationary and mobile sources (i.e., industry and cars) with almost complete discretion. These “endangerment” powers give the President tremendous leverage in a number of complex negotiations.

For example, the Obama administration already has told Congress that it will regulate greenhouse gases unless lawmakers deliver a cap-and-trade bill to his desk. The “endangerment” prerogatives also are the President’s bargaining chip in Copenhagen, where he plans on scoring his first diplomatic victory since his election night.

The problem is that the President can’t stop what he has started. Under the statutory language of the Clean Air Act, the regulation of mobile sources tripwires regulations for all stationary sources that emit more than 250 tons of a designated pollutant. For greenhouse gases, that’s pretty much everything larger than a mansion. These stationary sources would have to get a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit for any proposed modification, as would any new source. They would also have to get operating permits. The upshot is that millions of buildings would be subject to regulations.

To get around this, Obama’s EPA proposed a “tailoring rule” that would change the language of the CAA so that the threshold would be 25,000 tons. The legality of this is very much in doubt, as it amounts to the executive branch legislating, and is therefore a violation of the separation of powers.

Also under the Clean Air Act, any “pollutant” that “endangers” human health and welfare, and which is regulated for stationary and mobile sources, becomes subject to National Ambient Air Quality Standards. As described above, the Obama administration is in the process of fulfilling all these NAAQS criteria.

Last week, two environmentalist groups petitioned the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under NAAQS. Soon the EPA will have no choice. Once the NAAQS kicks in-and it will-the American economy is screwed. The government won’t be able to permit anything larger than a mansion. Taken to the extent mandated under the Clean Air Act, the EPA would probably have to order the shut-down of most industrial suppliers and users of conventional energy.

There’s only one remedy for this otherwise inevitable regulatory nightmare. The Congress must pass H. R. 391, legislation offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) that prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Rholm December 7, 2009 at 6:23 pm

It is a sad day when Americans have to fear there government… That day is here.

Eddy Burke December 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm

So now the EPA/Government can start regulating how many children a family can have. Since exhaling adds to pollution (not to mention consumption related to human beings) the EPA might very well in the future decide that it is “irresponsible” to have more than 1 child. Oh, I know, people will say “you are crazy”; well, we will see. Who would have ever thought 20 years ago that an administration can decide to regulate as “poisonous” a gas that plants need to survive and that humans exhale. Too crazy!

Brian December 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Thats the dumbest thing i have ever heard. Clearly you have no idea what you are talking about. The amount of CO_2 humans expel is vanishingly small compared to what the government wishes to regulate.

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