Political Flavors

Letter Writing Sunday #4 – The EPA Should Keep Its Authority To Regulate Greenhouse Gases

Posted in Editorials on January 23rd, 2011

The Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate hazardous air pollutants. In addition to an initial list of pollutants, the Administrator of the EPA must periodically review it and add any new substances found to be hazardous. The EPA has decided to classify greenhouse gas emissions as hazardous air pollutants because of the role they play in climate change. This was in direct response to a United States Supreme Court ruling in 2007 which declared that they must make a decision on the matter. Now, the new Republican Congress has decided to take action to remove this authority from the EPA. The specific bill is HR 391, and was introduced by Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee and currently has 154 co-sponsors. Since the previous Congress (and all previous Congresses) failed to pass comprehensive legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, we cannot stand idly by while the EPA is rendered useless to deal with the problem.

The EPA’s course of action will not be to implement a cap and trade system, although that would be ideal, and a precedent has been set by some states and other countries. However, we must not let better be the enemy of the good. The effects of climate change grow exponentially and will have disastrous consequences, and so we must take any action we can to mitigate it.

The argument against EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is weak. Aside from straight up climate change denial are arguments that this will harm the economy and that it is an overstep of government authority.

While some industries like coal or oil will experience setbacks, we should not let this stand in the way of protecting not only the existence of human life on earth, but its quality in terms of health and the peace and stability of nations. Regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will create an incentive for new technological innovations – to either abate pollution or to create clean, non-polluting energy sources. This will boost the economy. As standards tighten and industries strive to meet them this will become more apparent. For example, if such a thing as “clean coal” exists then this will be a boon for it.

Regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is not an overstep of government authority. As mentioned previously, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the EPA may regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and they have also upheld the constitutionality of the Clean Air Act itself. Finally, one may question the validity of the existence of Environmental Protection Agency – but the reason we need it is clear – the problems addressed by the EPA may also be addressed by state and local governments, but since pollution knows no boundaries it is best assessed at as broad a scope as possible. President Richard Nixon wrote of the creation of the EPA:

Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food. Indeed, the present governmental structure for dealing with environmental pollution often defies effective and concerted action.

Despite its complexity, for pollution control purposes the environment must be perceived as a single, interrelated system. Present assignments of departmental responsibilities do not reflect this interrelatedness.

Many agency missions, for example, are designed primarily along media lines–air, water, and land. Yet the sources of air, water, and land pollution are interrelated and often interchangeable. A single source may pollute the air with smoke and chemicals, the land with solid wastes, and a river or lake with chemical and other wastes. Control of the air pollution may produce more solid wastes, which then pollute the land or water. Control of the water-polluting effluent may convert it into solid wastes, which must be disposed of on land.

Similarly, some pollutants–chemicals, radiation, pesticides–appear in all media. Successful control of them at present requires the coordinated efforts of a variety of separate agencies and departments. The results are not always successful.

I will be sending the following letter to my Congressional Representative and both of my Senators.

Global climate change is a serious issue which has the potential to negatively impact every person on Earth. It is for this reason that I am writing to you today. I urge you to take all actions you can to oppose HR 391 and ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency retain its authority to regulate greenhouse has emissions.

2 Responses to “Letter Writing Sunday #4 – The EPA Should Keep Its Authority To Regulate Greenhouse Gases”

  1. Steve Bowen Says:

    The insular nature of US politics sometimes drives me to distraction. Does no republican give a monkey’s about their countries reputation abroad?

  2. MissCherryPi Says:

    Most make it a point of pride if they are thought ill of in other countries – just look at how angry they are at President Obama for hosting Hu Jintao with the appropriate diplomatic courtesies.

    This isn’t a new phenomena. My husband and I are making our way through HBO’s miniseries “John Adams” which focuses on the early years of the United States. Alexander Hamilton, one of the writers of our constitution famously mocked Thomas Jefferson for having “a feminine affection for France.” Using French and gay as an epithet against political opponents is as old as American politics itself.

    In addition to that, there’s a lot more anti-intellectualism in the US than many people from other countries realize and the bizarre American-Right idea that caring about the environment is something only women do and we have a recipe for disaster.

    I’m actually relieved that you understand this Steve. I had several well meaning acquaintances from other countries assure me that George W. Bush would never be elected a second term because the American people are too smart for that, or who insist that Americans who deny climate change are probably about as plentiful and powerful as those who insist the Earth is flat.

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