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Republicans have one option to eliminate EPA carbon regulations

Posted on 3 February 2015 by dana1981

The US Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of creating regulations on carbon pollution from power plants, and Republicans in Congress hate the idea. Surprisingly, a majority of Republican voters support these regulations, with Tea Party members being the only exception.

Results of a recent Yale/George Mason Universities poll of American political conservatives Results of a recent Yale/George Mason Universities poll of American political conservatives.

Nevertheless, Republicans in Congress badly want to kill those regulations. However, they’re pursuing the avenues with the lowest chances of achieving that goal.

It’s important to remember that the EPA carbon pollution regulations are legally mandated. In 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that if it determined that carbon pollution poses a threat to public health or welfare, the EPA would be required to regulate emissions of that pollution under the Clean Air Act. In 2009, the EPA issued its endangerment finding, citing several comprehensive climate science reports, correctly concluding that carbon pollution poses a threat to public health and welfare and must therefore be regulated.

So while some Republicans in Congress have called the proposed carbon pollution regulations an “executive overreach,” in reality the EPA is simply implementing the law of the land.

Doomed GOP Challenges

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced legislation last year to block the EPA regulations. But even if that bill could make it through Congress, it would face a certain veto by President Obama.

There’s another effort to challenge the EPA regulations in court. These recently made headlines because they involve Laurence Tribe, for whom Obama was a research assistant at Harvard. Tribe has argued that the EPA regulations violate Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, and the DC court of appeals has just agreed to hear the arguments.

However, the chances of success for this legal challenge are extremely slim. NRDC attorney Benjamin Longstreth told me,

I would not read anything into the Court’s decision to schedule argument. The case has not even been briefed yet (that’s ongoing) so the decision to schedule argument doesn’t reflect anyone’s view of the merits of the case (the judges who are going to decide the case won’t even have the briefs yet) ... But it is important to remember that these cases are fatally premature (an issue that Tribe doesn’t address). You can only challenge a final agency decision. Here the petitioners seek to challenge a proposed rule.

Tribe’s main argument lies in the claim that Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act says that the EPA can’t regulate an air pollutant if it’s already regulating another pollutant from the same source. The EPA already regulates mercury emissions from power plants. However, this is an inaccurate reading of both the letter and intent of the law. Moreover, as Longstreth and his colleague David Doniger have explained, the Supreme Court has effectively already ruled on this issue (emphasis added).

This is how the Supreme Court interpreted the provision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. There the Court held that plaintiffs could not bring a federal tort action against major electric power companies for their emissions of carbon dioxide, because the Clean Air Act authorized EPA to regulate power plants’ carbon dioxide pollution under Section 111(d).

An Easy Alternative Path

While efforts to block or challenge the legality of the EPA carbon pollution regulations are all but doomed to failure, there is one way that Republicans in Congress could get rid of those regulations at any time. President Obama told Congress that if it didn’t act to address the threat of climate change, he would. But he and congressional Democrats would rather take action via a free market solution.

With support from just a few of its Republican members, Congress could pass climate legislation that would replace the EPA regulations with a carbon pricing mechanism. Efforts were previously made (but failed by a slim margin) to implement a carbon cap and trade system. More recently, a revenue-neutral carbon tax has become the favored policy, especially among conservatives.

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. Check out:

    for a very similar story that goes beyond TEA party simple opposition to climate science, but shows opposition to mainstream science on nearly every hot button science issue.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Link activated.

  2. The Carbon Tax, fully Pigovian, is as compatible with conservative economic viewpoints as one can find. Its regressive nature can be eliminated by returning it to Americans on a "count-the-noses" basis, which makes it compatible with liberal economic viewpoints.

    The only reason so many politicians oppose it is that they are in the pay (who cares what be the medium of payment) is that the payors do not want anything to interfere with their profits from fossil fuels. "Follow the money." Cui bono.

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  3. I've used the equation Republicans = Tea Party for quite a while.  I've not seen anything to disprove the fact.

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  4. Hi,

    Off topic somewhat here - but is very much related to climate science denial.

    I am a retired UKMO Meteorologist and I post regularly on trying to rebut the AGW deniers that frequent the site.

    There is an ongoing thread ...

    Which primarily concerns the concerns of one Doug Bell in respect of differences between the original FAR graph ECS assessment and that transfered to the AR5 graph of all AR's overlain. I have pointed out a quote from SkS in this post.....


    "The IPCC FAR ran simulations using models with climate sensitivities (the total amount of global surface warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2, including amplifying and dampening feedbacks) of 1.5°C (low), 2.5°C (best), and 4.5°C (high) for doubled CO2 (Figure 1). However, because climate scientists at the time believed a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would cause a larger global heat imbalance than is currently believed, the actual climate sensitivities were approximatly 18% lower (for example, the 'Best' model sensitivity was actually closer to 2.1°C for doubled CO2)."

    I read it, that AFTER FAR the ECS was taken as 18% lower than the figure used then.
    The AR5 graph has the ECS ranges "rebased" to that figure.
    In the original FAR document, which you get your sensitivity figures from they are as was thought originally.

    The "missing" 0.4C ?"

    Is anyone able to shead light on the matter?


    Tony Banton

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  5. Addendum to the above...

    Mr Bell outlines his arguments here...

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  6. Hi Runrig,

    It is best to keep comments on topic, here SkS has a relevant article, FAR Prediction. Assuming Doug has not messed up his baselines the answer is probably found in the linked article, the actual forcing being less than the BAU projection and we are tracking on one of the lower climate sentivity projections. His analysis seems a bit subjective, for instance he claimes, "At the 2035 mark the lowest prediction is around 1.7°C". My eyeballing puts it closer to 1.6C.

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  7. Runrig - I've replied on the more appropriate thread. Long story short, the rescaling was entirely justified by updated forcing information, and Doug Bell is engaging in conspiracy ideation

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  8. KR,

    Yes he is indeed, as has been rammed home to him by "Maggnus", but on the other hand has been polite and accepted some criticism and apologised on occasion.

    I have replied also on the appropriate thread.


    Tony Banton

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