Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Carbon Regulation Kabuki

US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
Well, the EPA got everyone's attention by announcing they were going to regulate green house gas (GHG) emissions as pollution under the Clean Air Act. Yesterday, they granted a stay. Why?
Slowing down the rules could give Congress more time to develop a legislative answer to reducing carbon pollution and avoid a lengthy legal battle over whether the agency has the authority to regulate the emissions.
This is exactly as expected; the Obama Administration doesn't really want to use the EPA to regulate GHG emissions, even though the Supreme Court cleared the way for them to do so. It's likely that such an approach wouldn't work very well anyway. What the Administration wants is to prod the Congress, and especially a dysfunctional Senate, into getting serious about crafting real climate and energy legislation.

Texas, other states, numerous fossil fuel-intensive businesses, parochial members of Congress as well as the usual suspects moved from carping to legal action in advance of the deadline last week.

Even as the EPA agreed to postpone its regulatory efforts, Administrator Lisa Jackson warned Congress against trying to overturn the Supreme Court's finding:
A vote to violate the greenhouse-gas endangerment finding would be viewed by many as a vote to reject the scientific work of the 13 US government departments that contribute to the US Global Climate Research Program. It would also be viewed by many as a vote to move the United States to a position behind that of China on the issue of climate change, and more in line with the position of Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is trying to handcuff EPA permanently, using a variety of tactics. Now Sen. Jay Rockerfeller (D-WV) is proposing to "set in stone" a ban on EPA action to allow Congress "the space it needs" to pass legislation:
EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications on clean coal state economies, and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a Federal environmental agency.
Nice words. Sen. Rockerfeller makes obeisance to the need for Congressional deliberation, but the problem is the Senate, the so-called World's Greatest Deliberative Body, which is proving incapable of deliberating anything. The Senate has become so lethargic or so unwilling about doing anything it is tempting to refer to their pace as "glacial" except, of course, glaciers are actually moving rather quickly these days, as they retreat up mountains and into memory. Such appeals to take more time are just a feint to kill all action.

Enough. Are Senators so narcissistic that they slouch into action only if it appears some other governmental body is in danger of getting attention by actually doing something?
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