Should one unelected agency dictate energy choices that could profoundly affect America’s economy and our future? A court says yes, at least when it comes to climate change.
For those who have tracked the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down on carbon dioxide emissions, this week’s news from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will come as no surprise.
Back in 2007, the Supreme Court told the EPA to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. A three-judge panel at the appeals court reaffirmed those marching orders when it gave the EPA the go-ahead to limit new coal-fired power plants.
The only real difference between then and now is in the EPA’s attitude. Five years ago, under the Bush administration, it was a reluctant warrior and had to be prodded by the court. Now it’s gung-ho.
It is using all the power it can squeeze out of the 1970 Clean Air Act to phase out the burning of coal. The panel’s unanimous decision gave it the green light it wanted. The prospects of a successful appeal — which would require the Supreme Court to reverse itself — look dim.
But this is hardly where the arguments should end. Even if the EPA is acting within the letter of the law, the law can be changed. In this case it should, because the agency’s quest to suppress greenhouse gases is too far-reaching in its impacts to be left to unelected bureaucrats.
This is not to say that we expect Congress to settle the scientific issue of how much human activity, if any, contributes to climate change. That question is politicized enough already. The real reason to revisit the Clean Air Act is to force a more honest accounting of the economic and energy choices that the EPA is imposing on the nation.