CPR Member Scholar Nina Mendelson has a piece today in The New York Times's "Room for Debate" feature on the news that EPA is working its way toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. As The Times quite directly and correctly puts it, "Under orders from the Supreme Court, which the Bush administration ignored, President Obama’s new head of the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to determine" whether CO2 should be regulated. Among those joining the Times debate is John Graham, former Bush administration "regulatory czar." (He's opposed to regulating, not surprisingly.) Mendelson writes:
The announcement by Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, that she will determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare seems a welcome signal that the agency will respond to the urgency of global warming. As a legal matter, Ms. Jackson probably has little choice. The E.P.A. has been charged for decades with regulating air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. As the Supreme Court recognized in Massachusetts v. the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gases are such air pollutants. An endangerment determination would confirm the agency’s power, but also its obligation, to regulate greenhouse gases now.Indeed, the agency should begin by setting performance standards to reduce greenhouse gases from new major stationary sources, like coal-fired electric utilities and industrial facilities, and from new motor vehicles.
As a policy matter, there are excellent reasons to have the E.P.A. move ahead, rather than awaiting congressional action. While the regulatory process may not be nimble, agency experts have already done considerable preparation. And Congress may trail the agency. Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California who chairs the relevant Senate committee, has already announced that she does not expect a Senate vote on climate change legislation before 2010. Delay would be environmentally costly.
Read the full piece, here.