Yesterday, during a speech at the Columbia University Center for Global Energy, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy articulated a disturbingly expansive view of the agency’s authority. Here’s what she said:
My main point is that a low carbon future is absolutely inevitable … Our role [EPA’s] is to look at the transition that is happening in the energy world, and instead of running against the tide, let’s put some wind in those sails! Let’s put a marker down about what investments should happen if we can all agree that a low carbon future is essential to pursue … America is already bullish on clean energy and the low carbon economy. That is my argument. That is what money and investments are telling me. And EPA simply wants to send the right signal, so [American industry] can feel sure, when they double down, it can be profitable to them.
According to Administrator McCarthy, EPA’s “role” is to decide what investments in the energy industry “should happen,” in order to ensure that such investments will be “profitable.”
This is an amazing statement, in a terrible way. EPA, of course, is a creature of Congress. When did Congress delegate to the agency the power dictate how a trillion dollar sector of the economy should render its investments? Or empower EPA to pick and choose which industries should be profitable?
Moreover, McCarthy’s claimed authority doesn’t make any sense. Why would such responsibilities reside in the office of federal environmental regulators at the EPA, rather than the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the Department of Energy?
Notably, her remarks as delivered differ significantly from her remarks as prepared (available here). From what I can tell, the comments above were some sort of riff, or perhaps last minute additions to her prepared statement.
The above wasn’t the only instance whereby she apparently went off the rhetorical rails. She also claimed that EPA fuel efficiency regulations “propelled” the auto industry’s rebound, which is a lark. And she offered the following about the proper exercise of U.S. power on the international stage:
And the job of the United States is to be the first to get [to a “carbon conscious economy”]. And to use our power and our influence to convince the rest of the world that that’s how they should also be investing. That it [a “carbon conscious economy”] is not punishment; it’s an opportunity for greater productivity. That is the goal before us.
In this fashion, EPA Administrator McCarthy believes that the U.S. should use its “power and influence” to make decisions regarding how the rest of the world will use its energy. Sounds like she’s now eyeing the State Department’s turf.