POLITICS

Senators: ‘Far-left’ group pushes EPA to implement cap-and-trade without congressional approval

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

Republican senators urged the Environmental Protection Agency not to participate in a “sue-and-settle” arrangement with a law school policy institute that is trying to require the agency to develop rules implementing cap-and-trade, even though Congress refused to pass the law.

The New York Institute for Policy Integrity told the EPA in November that it plans to file a lawsuit over the agency’s failure to respond to IPI’s request that it create a rule implementing a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

Four senators attacked the idea today in a letter to EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to lead the agency.

“The potential negative impact in this case is that it threatens to expand environmental regulation beyond original intent of the law and could have detrimental effects on the livelihoods of our fellow Americans that are not always understood by academia,” wrote Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Wyo., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a letter today.

“When the price of transportation fuels increases for any reason, it is those with limited resources and fixed incomes whose livelihoods are most impacted by this added financial burden,” they added.  “In recent years, we have consistently heard the term “environmental justice” as a reason for promulgating certain agency actions.  We believe there also needs to be a measure of “economic justice” to ensure that Agency actions are not overly regressive and lack consideration for economic harm visited upon the very citizens these environmental laws are intended to protect.”

The Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI), in response to the senators, acknowledged that it is seeking cap-and-trade via the regulatory process.

“Market-based mechanisms, like the cap-and-trade approach advocated in our petition, are a highly cost effective and flexible means of reducing pollution,” executive director Michael Livermore said in a statement today. “There is broad agreement among economists that these types of policies are preferable to command-and-control-style regulation. By maximizing flexibility, market approaches to pollution control help spur innovation and allow businesses to reduce emissions at the lowest possible cost.”

More recently, IPI has petitioned EPA to issue another rule mandating cap-and-trade style policies. “In a recent rulemaking petition, the Institute for Policy Integrity (the Institute) seeks to compel EPA rules under three separate sections of the Clean Air Act,” Marten Law’s Dustin Till explains in a post. “The Institute first argues that Section 115 of the Clean Air Act, a never-before-used provision addressing international air pollution, requires EPA to order all 50 states to modify their state-level implementation plans to address greenhouse gas emissions.”

The petition also asked the EPA to begin holding all coal plants to the same emissions standards set for natural gas plants. Under current policy, those emissions standards only apply to coal plants not yet constructed. President Obama explained the significance of this rule in 2008.

“So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama said in 2008. The application of that rule to existing coal plants would, presumably, bankrupt them as well.

Vitter described the coming lawsuit as “a prime example of a far-left organization pushing EPA to play the ‘sue-and-settle’ game, hoping EPA will again circumvent transparency and craft policy and draconian regulations that could have a significant negative financial impact on consumers.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the nature of the petition over which IPI has decided to file a lawsuit.

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