Opinion: Columnists

Ron Arnold: Meet your new regulator: A Big Green law school

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Big Green activists and former federal bureaucrats who just can't stop trying to regulate your life have become advisers at an ultraliberal law school that sues the government for not doing what its professors want. They are creating not the rule of law, but the rule of lawyers.

The litigious lodge is New York University Law School and its mean junkyard dog, the Institute for Policy Integrity, an adviser-ridden think tank with a cheeky name.

Most recently, this bastion of the dark arts announced it was preparing to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to make the EPA ration how much fuel goes into the U.S. economy from refiners and fuel importers. The lawsuit will demand that the EPA "set up a cap-and-trade system for the transportation sector to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from fuels" -- imposed on all the trains, planes and automobiles.

The U.S. Senate nixed a more comprehensive "cap-and-tax" scheme in 2009, but the IPI's Big Green academic autocracy wants to govern through the backdoor using the court system. If you can't beat 'em, sue 'em.

Big Green's presence on the IPI's 22-member advisory board is impressive: high-ranking officials of the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, League of Conservation Voters, Resources for the Future and Union of Concerned Scientists. The combined assets of this bunch of BANANA groups (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) exceed $885 million.

But the IPI's former bureaucrat firepower is even more staggering. It includes a deputy secretary of state for management and resources, two former head lawyers at the EPA, and one lawyer from the Food and Drug Administration. Also, there are lawyers from the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Next come legal advisers from the White House: the Council on Environmental Quality, Council of Economic Advisers and Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as the Obama administration's Task Force on the Auto Industry.

Finally, the big guns: Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta (now boss of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress). Jack Lew departed the IPI in January to serve as President Obama's White House chief of staff.

From this stronghold, IPI Executive Director Michael A. Livermore fired his lawsuit at the EPA two weeks ago. The IPI had filed a formal petition to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on July 29, 2009, demanding that she "take the following actions," which included: 1) "make a finding" that transportation emissions might endanger public welfare; 2) "propose a cap-and-trade system" for transportation fuels; 3) make an endangerment finding especially for aircraft fuels; 4) "propose a joint rulemaking with the Federal Aviation Administration" to include aircraft fuels in the cap-and-trade scheme; and 5) finalize regulations within 90 days.

Whoa, professor! Who's running this show? A law school project, even one packed with muckety-mucks, has no more right to tell the EPA what to do than Joe the Plumber.

Jackson did not pick up the phone and immediately tell NYU Law School Dean Richard L. Revesz, "Yes, sir. Right away, sir. Anything else, sir?" The fact is, she said nothing at all, which is what has provoked the IPI's lawsuit.

But if Jackson ultimately agrees to these claims, it will look suspiciously like a "sweetheart lawsuit" -- one in which she happily let the IPI sue the EPA to justify following a long-hidden agenda, now that President Obama is safely ensured of his second term.

What would you think if the EPA were to settle such a suit without going to public trial?

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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