The Politicization of EPA: The Administration’s Radical Endangerment GambleAlan Carlin | December 8, 2009
On Monday EPA announced its endangerment finding for greenhouse gases. One can infer from the timing of the announcement that the Administration may have taken this action at this time in order to bring something to the table at the Copenhagen COP15 meeting. From a scientific viewpoint it was an odd time to do so given that the very recent Climategate disclosures would presumably have taken some time to digest and analyze for their possible effects on vital conclusions. So the timing may have been based more on the political rather than the scientific factors involved.
But from a larger viewpoint, the Obama who was going to find a way to resolve partisan bickering in Washington has now embarked on a major escalation of the conflict by using the power he holds over Executive Branch agencies to fight its enemies in Congress over the issue of global warming. Although EPA has always been organizationally an arm of the Administration in power, it has until this Administration been able to largely maintain the appearance if not the reality of being science based. That is now much harder to maintain.
Originally the rumor was that the purpose of the endangerment finding would be to pressure Congress into approving a cap and trade bill. But by now it appears fairly clear that the Administration will not be able to gather the needed votes in the Senate to pass the bill at least this year and probably even next year either with or without an endangerment finding. So there would seem to be little reason to push the endangerment finding now unless they intended to attempt to use it as the basis for negotiating at COP15.
Some Major Political Risks
This EPA endangerment approach carries some major risks for the Administration, however. The first risk is that EPA’s apparently politically motivated endangerment finding may be overturned in the now inevitable court reviews.
The second risk is that when implementing greenhouse gas regulations should be announced and certainly when they should ever be implemented the full responsibility will obviously fall onto the Administration rather than being shared between the Administration and Congress, which is what would occur if Congress ever adopted a cap and trade bill. So if many constituents end up being unhappy with the resulting regulations and particularly the greatly increased energy costs and decreased employment that will result it will be obvious who was responsible. And there may well be some unhappy constituents.
A third risk is that they will not be able to contain EPA’s actions since the law clearly specifies that much smaller sources are subject to regulation than they now contemplate, and legal action may force EPA to regulate smaller sources whether it wants to or not.
A fourth risk is that the added uncertainties created by the finding and the added costs in terms of higher energy prices and reduced employment will further weaken the Administration’s claims to be primarily interested in combatting the recession, the issue currently most on the mind of voters.
Some Additional Risks from the International Negotiations Needed to Insure a Worldwide Effort
But there are other risks as well. Suppose the COP15 meeting is unable to reach any agreement that the Administration can sell domestically? Or suppose that there is agreement on a new climate protocol and it comes into force but only a few countries actually live up to what they have agreed to, as has been the case for the Kyoto Protocol, so that what little effect reductions in CO2 may have on global temperatures is lost in the increased emissions of those countries that do not take promised reductions seriously. Or suppose that the developing world says that they will only support a new treaty if the developed world pays the bill, as they have so far done? Is the Administration willing to support a massive foreign aid bill providing funds to the UN, or one of its agencies such as the World Bank, to disperse as they may decide in the middle of the most serious recession of the postwar era to meet these demands by the developing world? Suppose the Russians will agree to a new treaty only if their credits resulting from the collapse of Soviet era manufacturing are honored in a new protocol, meaning that they would face very limited requirements? So the Administration seems to be gambling not only that Americans will not rebel against the potential EPA restrictions but that it can push through a massive UN-administered foreign aid program. And then there is the problem of how to get any possible new protocol through the Senate, which this time would require 67 votes rather than 60 needed for cap and trade. All this seems to me to be quite a gamble.
And just to make things worse from the Administration’s viewpoint, it is not only now clear that key parts of the global warmists’/UN science is scientifically incorrect (see my March Comments and my more recent blog post); it is now also clear how it is that their science came to be the way it is since we now have some of the actual programs used to bring this about as well as some of the Email and programming comments of some of those working to bring this about. Even Mother Nature is not cooperating with very cold, wintry weather sweeping the United States this week.
Finally, public support for the global warming/UN science and greenhouse gas regulation is dropping rapidly. So is it wise for the Administration to take all these risks from a political viewpoint? Or is the outcome going to be similar to the recent one in Australia, where last week Parliament turned down a cap a trade bill for the second time. Unless the Administration is driven solely by a radical environmental agenda come what may, the only rational conclusion is that they think they can somehow overcome all these major risks. The loss of even one of these sub-gambles may doom the lot. So perhaps they are driven primarily by environmental dogma rather than political calculation? Maybe they actually still believe that they are saving the world despite the demonstrably bad science they have endorsed in order to support this view?
The Skeptics Are Also Unlikely to Be Willing to Compromise
On the other side of the issue, the skeptics are unlikely to be willing to compromise given the recent confirmation of their suspicions concerning how the warmists’ science was derived. From their viewpoint there appear to be only a limited number of options:
- Assume that at least one of the lawsuits that may emerge will be upheld by the courts.
- Look for a must-pass bill to attach a rider that prohibits funds being used to implement greenhouse gas controls under the Clean Air Act.
- Use the Congressional Review Act to overrule the endangerment finding.
Whichever of these options the skeptics may pursue, the outcome will be the still further politicization of EPA. This may have much longer lasting effects than the current fight over global warming control and could lead to the end of EPA as a primarily science-based Agency.