Gina McCarthy — President Obama’s nominee to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA Administrator — is often described as “straight shooter” and “honest broker.” Is that reputation deserved?
Last week, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) released a 123 page document containing McCarthy’s responses to hundreds of questions on a wide range of issues. Part 1 of this series examined McCarthy’s responses to Vitter’s questions about the agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources. The key points were:
- McCarthy and the Air Office over which she presides gave Congress and the electric power sector false assurances that the EPA would not require utilities planning to build new coal-fired power plants to “fuel switch” and build natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants instead.
- Such misinformation undercut the credibility of critics who warned that the EPA, if left to its own devices, would use greenhouse gas regulation to prohibit the construction of new coal electric generation.
- The EPA’s dissembling on fuel switching may have swayed votes against measures sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2010 and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in 2011 to reclaim Congress’s authority to determine climate policy.
Agencies are not supposed to provide false or misleading information to influence how Members of Congress vote. Banning new coal generation — the inexorable effect of the EPA’s ‘Carbon Pollution’ Rule – is a policy Congress would reject if proposed as legislation.
Part 1 concluded that confirming McCarthy as Administrator would reward the EPA’s duplicitous pursuit of an agenda Congress has not authorized. Breaking news of the EPA’s grossly unequal treatment of groups seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — based on whether the groups support or oppose a bigger, more intrusive EPA — leaves no doubt that this out-of-control agency deserves a kick in the butt, not a pat on the back.
Even the Society of Environmental Journalists – hardly a hotbed of libertarians, conservative Republicans, or fossil-fuel industry lobbyists — recently complained that the Obama administration “has been anything but transparent in its dealings with reporters seeking information, interviews and clarification” on environmental, health, and public lands issues, and that, ”The EPA is one of the most closed, opaque agencies to the press.”
Today’s post examines McCarthy’s responses to Vitter’s questions about the administration’s motor vehicle mandates. As in Part 1, I begin with an overview of the issues and political back story. For more detailed analyses, see the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee report, A Dismissal of Safety, Choice, and Cost: The Obama Administration’s New Auto Regulations, and my article, EPA Regulation of Fuel Economy: Congressional Intent or Climate Coup? [click to continue…]
Note: A nearly identical version of this column appeared last week in Forbes Online. I am reposting it here with many additional hyperlinks so that readers may more easily access the evidence supporting my conclusions.
The November 2012 elections ensure that President Obama’s war on coal will continue for at least two more years. The administration’s preferred M.O. has been for the EPA to ‘enact’ anti-coal policies that Congress would reject if such measures were introduced as legislation and put to a vote. Had Gov. Romney won the presidential race and the GOP gained control of the Senate, affordable energy advocates could now go on offense and pursue a legislative strategy to roll back various EPA global warming regulations, air pollution regulations, and restrictions on mountaintop mining. But Romney lost and Democrats gained two Senate seats.
Consequently, defenders of free-market energy are stuck playing defense and their main weapon now is litigation. This is a hard slog because courts usually defer to agency interpretations of the statutes they administer. But sometimes petitioners win. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), a regulation chiefly targeting coal-fired power plants. The Court found that the CSAPR exceeded the agency’s statutory authority. Similarly, in March, the Court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority when it revoked a Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in Logan County, West Virginia.
A key litigation target in 2013 is EPA’s proposal to establish greenhouse gas (GHG) “new source performance standards” (NSPS) for power plants. This so-called carbon pollution standard is not based on policy-neutral health or scientific criteria. Rather, the EPA contrived the standard so that commercially-viable coal plants cannot meet it. The rule effectively bans investment in new coal generation.
We Can Win This One
Prospects for overturning the rule are good for three main reasons. [click to continue…]
An opinion survey commissioned by the Sierra Club supposedly shows that Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly favor the expansion of wind and solar power and the phase out of coal-fired power plants. An obvious implication is that Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the Senate’s leading critic of the Obama administration’s anti-coal policies, is out of step with his constituents.
This is an old trick (see my post on a similar, NRDC-sponsored poll of Michigan voters in House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton’s district). When a pollster asks leading questions, he can usually elicit the answers his client is paying for.
In the Sierra Club-sponsored survey of 500 registered Oklahoma voters, 78% of those polled said they generally support expanded use of renewable energies like wind and solar power, and 62% said they would support phasing out some of the State’s coal-fired power plants.
The Sierra Club’s polling strategist waxed enthusiastic about the results, Greenwire reports:
“The results of this poll are remarkable,” Sierra Club polling strategist Grace McRae said in a statement.
“Across the nation, support for clean energy is high, but in Oklahoma, nearly 8 out of 10 voters support expanding use of clean energy resources like wind and solar. Oklahoma’s leaders and utilities should take note: Oklahomans want clean energy.”
Okay, let’s look at how the survey reaches those ”remarkable” results. [click to continue…]
Bait-and-switch is one of the oldest tricks of deceptive advertising. The used-car dealer “baits” you onto the lot with an ad promising low interest payments on the car of your dreams. When you get there, the dealer regretfully informs you the car has already been sold. But, no, you haven’t wasted your time, because he’s got this other great car – the “switch” — which has so many superior features and it will only cost you a little more per month.
An even less ethical variant of this tactic is employed in politics. Party A in a negotiation gives an assurance or promise to obtain Party B’s support for a law or regulation. Party A then reneges on the deal once the policy is on the books. EPA’s recently proposed “Carbon Pollution Standard” Rule is a posterchild for this tactic. [click to continue…]
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) boasts that its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards save more fuel than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards – but denies that GHG standards are fuel economy standards. Huh?
Well, of course, CARB denies it, because the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) prohibits states from adopting laws or regulations “related to” fuel economy.
But CARB has to trumpet the fuel savings from its GHG standards to attack H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act. H.R. 910, says CARB, would make America more dependent on foreign oil by prohibiting CARB and EPA from adopting tougher GHG standards.
H.R. 910 opponents talk as if policymaking were a game in which the regulatory option with the biggest fuel savings wins. By that criterion, why not just let EPA and CARB impose a de facto 100 mpg CAFE standard and declare America to be “energy independent”?
If Congress thinks NHTSA’s standards don’t go far enough, there is a simple fix. Pass a law! What H.R. 910 opponents want is for EPA and CARB to legislate in lieu of Congress. That is neither lawful nor constitutional. [click to continue…]
Three of the Congress’s most influential energy policymakers this week “urged” the Environmental Protection Agency to delay an ultra-costly regulation targeted at coal-fired power plants, the source of 50 percent of America’s electricity generation. For the sake of keeping the lights on, all Americans should hope the Obama administration heeds these Congressmen’s request.
Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), and House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) yesterday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson demanding a longer comment period for a proposed regulation known as the Utility HAP MACT
[The HAP stands for “Hazardous Air Pollutant,” and the MACT stands for "Maximum Achievable Control Technology"; to learn what these terms entail, read this summary of the regulation, Primer: EPA’s Power Plant MACT for Hazardous Air Pollutants.]
The EPA issued the Utility HAP MACT in mid-March, and it gave the public 60 days to comment. The Congressmen “urge the agency [to] extend the comment period to a minimum of 120 days to allow adequate time for stakeholders to assess and comment on the proposal.”
The extended comment period is well warranted. For starters, the EPA included a number of “pollutants” in the proposed regulation that shouldn’t be there. The EPA’s authority to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants is derivative of a study on the public health effect of mercury emissions. The EPA’s proposed regulation, however, would regulate acid gases, non-mercury metals, and organic air toxins, in addition to mercury. Yet the EPA’s evidence only pertains to mercury. The EPA’s authority to regulate these non-mercury emissions, despite their not having been a part of the aforementioned study, will be challenged, and the DC Circuit Court ultimately will decide.
[click to continue…]
If Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the House, or Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Harry Reed (D-Nev.) in the Senate, were to introduce legislation authorizing EPA to use the Clean Air Act (CAA) as it sees fit to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), would the bill have any chance of passing in either chamber of Congress?
No. Aside from a few diehard global warming zealots, hardly any Member of Congress would vote for such a bill. Most lawmakers would run from such legislation even faster than the Senate last year ditched cap-and-trade after its outing as a hidden tax on energy.
Now consider what that implies. If even today, after nearly two decades of global warming advocacy by the United Nations, eco-pressure groups, ’progressive’ politicians, left-leaning media, corporate rent-seekers, and celebrity activists, Congress would not pass a bill authorizing EPA to regulate GHGs, then isn’t it patently ridiculous for EPA and its apologists to claim that when Congress enacted the CAA in 1970 — years before global warming was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye — it gave EPA that very power?
These simple questions cut through the fog of sophistry emitted by the likes of Waxman, Markey, and Boxer to defend EPA’s hijacking of legislative power. As I have explained elsewhere in detail (here, here, here, and here), EPA, under the aegis of the Supreme Court’s poorly-reasoned, agenda-driven decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, is using the CAA in ways Congress never intended and never subsequently approved. EPA is defying the separation of powers. It should be stopped. [click to continue…]
Yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) mounted a tirade (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) against the McConnell amendment (a.k.a. S. 482, the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act) to the small business reauthorization bill (S. 493). The amendment would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy under the guise of implementing the Clean Air Act (CAA), a statute enacted in 1970, years before global warming emerged as a public policy issue.
The Senate is expected to vote later today on S. 493, so it worthwhile examining Boxer’s speech, which opponents of the bill will undoubtedly recycle in today’s debate.
I discuss the rhetorical traps S. 482 supporters should avoid in an earlier post. Stick to your moral high ground, namely, the constitutional premise that Congress, not an administrative agency with no political accountability to the people, should make the big decisions regarding national policy. The fact that Congress remains deadlocked on climate and energy policy is a compelling reason for EPA not to ‘enact’ greenhouse gas (GHG) controls. It is not an excuse for EPA to substitute its will for that of the people’s representatives.
Okay, that said, let’s examine Boxer’s rant. It is lengthy, repetitive, and often ad homonym, so I’ll try to hit just the main points. [click to continue…]
Tomorrow, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act (S. 482) to overturn EPA’s Endangerment Rule and most of the agency’s other greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. The bill is based on the constitutional premise that Congress, not an administrative agency with no political accountability to the people, should make the big decisions regarding national policy.
The fact that Congress remains deadlocked on climate and energy policy is a reason for EPA not to act — not an excuse for the agency to substitute its will for that of the people’s representatives.
I am a huge fan of the Inhofe-Upton bill. But even a good thing can be improved. S. 482 should be amended to preempt public nuisance litigation against GHG emitters under federal common law. Indeed, in its current form, S. 482 could actually increase the risk that the Supreme Court will empower trial lawyers and activist judges to ‘legislate’ climate policy. [click to continue…]
Today at Pajamas Media.Com, I discuss the latest stratagem of the greenhouse lobby to protect EPA’s purloined power to dictate national climate and energy policy: Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) amendment to the small business reauthorization bill.
The Baucus amendment would essentially codify EPA’s Tailoring Rule, which exempts small greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters from Clean Air Act (CAA) permitting requirements.
That may seem innocent enough. However, if enacted, the Baucus amendment would also codify the ever-growing ensemble of EPA climate initiatives of which the Tailoring Rule is only a small piece.
EPA’s current and probable future climate regulations include GHG/fuel-economy standards for all categories of mobile sources (cars, trucks, marine vessels, aircraft, non-road vehicles and engines) and GHG/energy-efficiency standards for dozens of industrial source categories.
Congress, however, never authorized EPA to determine fuel economy standards for motor vehicles, much less dictate national policy on climate change. The Baucus amendment would put Congress’s legislative stamp of approval on EPA’s end-run around the legislative process.
The amendment has almost no chance of passing in the GOP-led House of Representatives. However, it does not need to pass to perpetuate EPA’s shocking power grab. All it has to do is peel off enough votes in the Senate to prevent passage of the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act. That bill, which is almost certain to pass in the House, would overturn most of EPA’s current GHG regulations and stop the agency permanently from promulgating climate change policies Congress never approved.
Whether the Baucus amendment is adopted or just blocks passage of Inhofe-Upton, the U.S. economy will be exposed to the risk that EPA will be litigated into establishing national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for GHGs, and to the risk that EPA will use BACT (“best available control technology”) determinations and NSPS (New Source Performance Standards) to restrict America’s access to affordable, carbon-based energy. [click to continue…]