Reining in the EPA’s power grab

By Doug Carlson
Apr 6, 2011

From newspapers to cable news desks, the battle over government funding is dominating headlines this week. Lawmakers have until Friday night to reach an agreement on a continuing resolution, or else the government will face a partial shutdown.

Yet amid this power struggle over the purse is another heated battle that could touch the pocketbook and livelihood of every American, especially the poor: regulation of greenhouse gases.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide—a naturally occurring substance, found even in the very air we exhale—in the name of curbing alleged man-made global warming. Commendably, the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910/S. 482) would turn back one of the most far-reaching government power grabs in history.

Last week, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission sent an action alert calling on concerned individuals to contact their lawmakers to urge support for the measure. The issue is still in play. The Senate pushed back last week’s expected vote on the measure as an amendment to a small business bill (S. 493) to this week. Meanwhile, the House will also consider the EPA measure this week.

Under the legislation, unelected bureaucrats would be stopped from burdening industries, businesses and individuals with hefty restrictions on carbon dioxide. As expressed in the EPA’s “endangerment finding,” the agency intends to regulate factories and businesses, and, even closer to home, vehicles, schools and churches, for starters. The proposed regulations top 18,000 pages. Quite simply, neither the EPA nor Congress should regulate the gas—most of which occurs naturally in the atmosphere—under the auspices of curbing highly disputable human-induced climate change.

But the EPA’s end-run around Congress is a power grab of heightened proportions. It follows failed congressional efforts to impose on Americans a draconian bill to cap energy usage by industries and to force over-emitters to buy carbon “credits.” In 2009, the House narrowly passed a cap and trade bill, 219-212. But the bill never became law as the Senate, lacking necessary support, did not take up the measure for a vote. Such a bill is all but dead in the current 112th Congress.

In light of this reality, the Obama administration has reverted to a dangerous course of action: If lawmakers won’t regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, then bureaucrats will.

The high costs of such regulation are widely known. These include increases in costs of energy and consumer products and loss of jobs—all of which would hit the poor especially hard. As then-Candidate Obama disclosed while stumping for a regulatory approach, “[E]lectricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Business investment could drop by $100 billion to $300 billion under the EPA’s strong-arm regulations, according to the American Council for Capital Formation, and U.S. job losses could approach one million over multiple years, several studies project.

And what are the benefits? Not much of anything. The EPA itself concedes that putting in place its stringent greenhouse gas regulations would have no significant impact on the global average temperature in 90 years. In fact, jobs moving en masse overseas, an all but certainty, would likely increase global levels of real pollutants since much of the world has far fewer restrictions than the U.S. on emissions.

Caring for God’s creation is a biblical mandate. So is caring for the poor. But taking nonsensical regulatory steps that promise little if any environmental gain yet would adversely affect every man, woman and child through job losses and higher costs for energy and everyday commodities is foolhardy. It is all the more reckless for a government agency to do so when Congress has rejected the idea.

If you agree, please contact your representative and senators and tell them to vote “yes” on the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910/S. 482) to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

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