The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is attempting to use the Clean Air Act to issue regulations to address global warming. However, the Clean Air Act was never intended to address global warming, and regulations attempting to do so would be very troublesome for the economy. Fortunately, the Congressional Review Act was enacted to stop just such bad regulations. S.J. Res. 26, sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (RAK) would use the act to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing global warming regulations that would do tremendous economic damage in the years ahead.
The Congressional Review Act: A Worthwhile Tool to Stop Bad Regulations
Congress has long recognized that federal regulators often overreach, promulgating regulations that go well beyond what the legislators intended. And Congress should know, as it passes the very laws it entrusts regulators to implement. In order to provide a means of stopping unwarranted or ill-advised regulations, Congress and President Clinton enacted the Congressional Review Act in 1996. The statute allows Congress to pass, by simple majority and with limited debate time, a resolution of disapproval against any newly promulgated federal regulation it opposes, thus revoking the regulation.
EPAs Endangerment Finding: A Perfect Use of the Congressional Review Act
It is hard to imagine a more appropriate application of the Congressional Review Act than a disapproval against the EPAs attempt to regulate energy use in the name of addressing global warming. The EPA is exercising regulatory authority under the Clean Air Acta 1970 statute created to fight smog, soot, and other air pollutants to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. However, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but a natural constituent of the air and the ubiquitous and unavoidable byproduct of fossil fuel use.
Those who believe that these emissions are contributing to potentially serious global warming would like to use the Clean Air Act to regulate them. Perhaps the biggest problem in doing so is that the thresholds for regulation under the Clean Air Actany source emitting 250 tons per year of a pollutant makes sense for regulating real pollutants from power plants and factories but would ensnare many smaller entities if carbon dioxide is regulated.
In other words, treating carbon dioxide as a pollutant means that costly EPA red tape would reach into potentially millions of commercial buildings, schools, churches, small businesses, farms just about anything that uses more than a little electricity, natural gas, or gasoline. The EPA readily admits that such regulations could impact millions of small businesses and impose costs well into the thousands of dollars for every one of them.
The EPA has taken the first step toward implementing this regulatory scheme by declaring that carbon dioxide endangers public health though it should be noted that there are lawsuits challenging the validity of the science on which the EPAs finding rests. The first target is motor vehicles, which have been subject to costly new fuel economy standards. But once carbon dioxide is thus regulated, the EPA is required to regulate it from stationary sources as well.
Time for Congress to Act
Even putting aside growing doubts about the seriousness of the alleged global warming threat, the fact that the Obama Administration is bypassing America’s elected officials and putting legislative authority in the hands of an unelected bureaucracy is objectionable in its own right. Senator Murkowski has recognized that this is precisely the kind of regulatory excess for which congressional restrictions are needed. Her resolution of disapproval would revoke the EPAs endangerment finding, without which subsequent global warming regulations could not be imposed.