Input Sought on EPA Plan to Restrict CO2

Published November 1, 2008

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting comments on proposed rulemaking regarding carbon dioxide emissions.

While the agency is on record stating it finds such rules a costly and imprecise means of restricting greenhouse gas emissions, it says it must offer the public an opportunity to comment because of a recent Supreme Court decision.

Court Binds EPA

The Supreme Court in April 2007 ruled carbon dioxide (CO2), which is essential to life on Earth and whose scarcity limits the growth of plants and crop production, is a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act (CAA), although the act never mentions carbon dioxide in that context.

The Court ordered EPA to determine whether CO2 emissions may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare. This determination, known as the endangerment test, would set the stage for far-reaching EPA restrictions on CO2 emissions.

EPA Foresees Disaster

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has said EPA rules are a costly and imprecise means of restricting CO2 emissions. In submitting the agency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to the Federal Register on July 11, Johnson noted, “The implications of a decision to regulate GHGs [greenhouse gases] under the act are so far-reaching that a number of other federal agencies have offered critical comments and raised serious questions during interagency review of EPA’s ANPR.

“I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases. Based on the analyses to date, pursuing this course of action would take decades and inevitably result in a very complicated and likely convoluted set of regulations. If our nation is truly serious about regulating greenhouse gases, the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool for the job,” said Johnson.

“One point is clear: The potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy,” Johnson added.

Even one of the Clean Air Act’s original sponsors, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), said EPA’s proposal “has the potential for shutting down virtually all industry and all economic activity and growth.”

Widespread Restrictions

The proposed regulations would empower EPA to regulate airplanes, ships, trains, trucks, boats, tractors, farm equipment, mining equipment, garden equipment, portable power generators, fork lifts, construction equipment, and logging machines—essentially any form of equipment that uses an internal combustion engine.

By EPA’s own estimation, more than 500,000 new permits will be required under this extension of authority. Essentially any building or campus of buildings of 100,000 square feet or more will have to be permitted.

That covers churches, schools, hospitals, airplane hangars, farm buildings, colleges, government buildings, apartment buildings, houses, office and retail space, hotels, and warehouses. EPA currently has neither the manpower nor the financial resources to establish a new bureaucracy to cover all of this.

Even Lawnmowers Affected

EPA’s proposal includes applying what’s been dubbed “the Grass Mileage Standard” to lawn mower engines and weed whackers. The standard would limit the number of grams of CO2 per kilogram of grass cuttings.

EPA’s proposed regulations include:

* Grass mileage standard: “Each application could require a different unit of measure tied to the machine’s mission or output … such as grams per kilogram of cuttings from a ‘standard’ lawn for lawnmowers.”

* Controlling the speed of the U.S. trucking fleet: “Speed limiters are generally available on new trucks or as a low-cost retrofit.”

* Going after small businesses and single family homes: “We believe that small commercial establishments … and indeed, a large single-family residence could exceed this [carbon dioxide] pollution threshold.”

“The EPA notice, along with Administrator Johnson’s preface and the accompanying agency comments, all make one thing very clear—regulating greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles would trigger a regulatory cascade,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“It would trigger multiple Clean Air Act provisions that would dwarf in cost and intrusiveness every climate bill that Congress has ever considered but could never bring itself to approve,” Lewis continued.


Relies on Faulty Science

EPA has boxed itself into a difficult predicament by relying on global warming assertions by a United Nations panel that has been widely criticized for bias and narrow-mindedness. Lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include staffers of such activist groups as Greenpeace, Environmental Defense, and Environment Canada.

EPA’s proposed rules cite no analysis of scientific opinions that differ from those expressed by IPCC, and the few scientific studies cited are outdated.

Notably, the rulemaking ignores the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s growing list of American scientists—totaling more than 31,000 to date, with one-third holding Ph.D. degrees—who have declared, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Sandy Liddy Bourne ([email protected]) is vice president for policy and strategic development for The Heartland Institute.