The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce today an “endangerment” finding on carbon and other greenhouse gasses, which would allow the Obama administration to impose restrictions on carbon emmissions even if “cap and trade” cannot get passed through Congress.
I wrote about this possibility for an article in the December/January version of our magazine, which is now up on our main site here. This is just one example of how Obama will attempt to impose through regulation whatever parts of his agenda that he cannot achieve legislatively.
As I wrote, “Each day, throughout the executive branch, presidentially appointed bureaucrats who remain unknown to most Americans make decisions that have consequences for the entire nation. And in President Obama’s case, his appointments serve as a plan B, allowing him to realize the parts of his agenda that he is unable to enact through the legislative process.”
My article looked at some of Obama’s appointments on labor, communications, energy, housing, and transportation. Here’s the bit that’s most relevant to today’s decision:
But regardless of what happens in Congress, the administration is already laying the groundwork to limit carbon emissions.
Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, made these intentions clear in her opening memo to employees in January 2009. “EPA will stand ready to help Congress craft strong, science-based climate legislation that fulfills the vision of the President,” she wrote, adding, “As Congress does its work, we will move ahead to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing EPA’s obligation to address climate change under the Clean Air Act.”
The Supreme Court decision Jackson referred to is Massachusetts v. EPA. Decided in 2007, the Court ruled that, pending a finding of “endangerment,” the EPA was required to regulate greenhouse gases in new vehicles. Obama appointed the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit, Lisa Heinzerling, to be senior policy counsel on climate change at the EPA, a position that does not require confirmation. In her speeches and academic writings, Heinzerling has advocated an unabashedly activist role for the federal government in regulating carbon emissions….
Heinzerling has gone so far as to argue that since global warming kills people, a failure to address it is tantamount to somebody not acting on prior knowledge that a homicide is going to take place.
“Knowledge that death and suffering will result from our actions leads uncontroversially to a moral obligation to change our behavior,” Heinzerling wrote in a 2008 article for the Georgetown Law Journal. “In the United States, knowing killing is condemned in the criminal laws of all 50 states, in modern regulatory laws at the federal level, and in civil jury awards in tort cases. These laws embody a moral commitment against knowing killing that, in traditional criminal contexts, is uncontroversial. It should be no more controversial when it occurs on a global scale.”
More specifically, even though the Massachusetts v. EPA decision involved emissions from new cars, Heinzerling made it clear in March 2008 testimony before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that her view is that the ruling applies broadly to all carbon emissions.
“There is little doubt that many categories of stationary sources — including, for example, power plants — emit greenhouse gases and thus ‘cause’ air pollution, which the Administrator has concluded endangers public health and welfare,” Heinzerling said. “Under section 111, the Administrator ‘shall’ include these sources on a list and then ‘shall’ regulate them.”