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How The E.P.A. Is Like Star Fox

April 28, 2010

Last night, Lisa Jackson appeared on the Daily Show and, before making a joke about reducing CO2 emissions by waiting with baited breath, pointed out a significant but perhaps underreported fact pertaining to the climate bill: the EPA is currently compelled by law to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a piece from The Nation, Christian Parenti makes the same point, and argues that this outcome is in fact better than the delicious-but-fantastically-unhealthy Swiss-cheese-and-sausage sandwich that would likely emerge from the Senate – if they were able to pass anything, that is.

The EPA is currently compelled by law – that is, they must or risk being sued – to regulate greenhouse gas emissions because:

  • In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that CO2 was an air pollutant that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
  • In December 2009, as Parenti explains, “the EPA published a science-based ‘endangerment finding,’ which found that CO2 and five other greenhouse gases are, in fact, dangerous to human life.”
  • And, he goes on, “once the EPA issues an endangerment finding, it is legally bound to promulgate regulations to address the problem.”

Voilá, regulation. Unfortunately, the politics of the issue make it such that the Obama Adminstration – or any Administration, Democratic or Republican – will probably refrain from spending the political capital that would necessarily accompany comprehensive GHG regulation by the EPA. It would undoubtedly result in the composition of a magnum opus titled “Unaccountable Elitist Arugula-Eating Death Panel Washington Bureaucrats Messin’ with Yer Right to Kill Our Earth!” by Beck, Palin et. al. and, to be honest, in my opinion a bill supported by a national consensus that addressed our emissions would be preferable to EPA regulation. I like legislators doing their jobs. On the other hand, it could very well be the only serious chance of we (i.e. America and the world) have of achieving the requisite reduction in CO2 emissions before catastrophic climate change sets in. So, in the end, the EPA may be the only hope for our world, as General Pepper once said.

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