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Obama’s EPA and the 2012 Elections

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First, read Fred Upton and Tim Phillips very important article in today’s Wall Street Journal on the push by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grab control over almost every aspect of American life.

Congressman Upton is the incoming chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Phillips is the president of Americans for Prosperity. (Chairman Upton will be my guest on Thursday’s show as I continue to interview key chairmen of House Committees in the new Congress.)

The EPA’s raw power grab is without precedent and built on the thinnest of rationales –a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA that said the Clean Air Act could provide the EPA with the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions if certain “findings” were made. Obama’s EPA made those findings and now is pushing forward the first wave of regulations that could end up with an EPA bureaucrat on overwatch of every carbon dioxide-emitting business, home, motor, machine and process in the country.

EPA is a serial job-killer, and this extreme regulatory agenda is contrary to every promise the president has made
to focus on job creation.

The first wave of rules targets power plants and oil refineries, and the public may be tempted to shrug and say “Who can argue with emission restrictions on such plants?”

EPA says it will be guided by reason, but this is Team Obama we are talking about, allied with the hard left edge of the environmental movement. Recall that the “mini-EPA” of Southern California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, started out promising common sense and ended up attempting to regulate backyard barbeques.
(I served a year on the board of this agency and know that while the agency is staffed by superb scientists and dedicated professionals, the nature of bureaucracy is such that it always rolls forward towards its narrow mission. That is what bureaucracies do.)

Obama’s EPA grabbed the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, and it believes it can regulate any emission of the gas anywhere in the country. When EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson first appears before Chairman Upton or any other House Committee, the questions should bore in on these key inquiry: How vast is EPA’s power, even if presently unused? What in theory could EPA regulate? Any manufacturing process that emits carbon dioxide? Any household that does?

Administrator Jackson will demur, will resist laying out her understanding of the full scope of the agency’s authority over American life. But if the questions are sharp and the questioners not easily deterred, the answer will emerge that EPA believes it can regulate almost every aspect of American life, just as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes it can regulate vast swatches of private property in the name of saving endangered species.

Over the past quarter century, the administrative state has melded itself onto the world view of Big Environmentalism, and the combination represents a threat to the idea of limited government and the liberties preserved by such a limited government. The fight to corral and tame EPA has significance far beyond power plants and refineries, and any honest participant in the debate will admit as much.

President Obama and his “tsar” for the environment Carol Browner fully embrace the most expansive vision of the uber-EPA, and their refusal to take any steps to curb the agency’s expansionist zeal should be a major issue in the 2012 elections. Americans didn’t sign up for an army of bureaucrats regulating a gas that many don’t believe can be meaningfully regulated to impact global temperatures. Obama’s EPA is the left flank of the front line in the political battle over the size and scope of government, with Obamacare being its center. (The right flank is a story for another day.) Upton and Phillips have fired the first shot in the 2011 battle to push back the EPA and hopefully they will find many allies on the Hill, in the grassroots, and among the GOP presidential candidates.



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