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from The Great Debate:

Antisocial genesis of the social cost of carbon

The day after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama committed to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

He vowed to build on “transparency [that] promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the government is doing,” “participation [that] allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise,” and “collaboration [that] actively engages Americans in the work of their government.”

Despite these promises, and despite longstanding requirements of administrative law, the Obama administration is making significant regulatory decisions behind closed doors -- without transparency or public involvement. Yet these new regulations could have enormous impact on Americans for generations to come.

The president’s ambitious regulatory agenda to address climate change relies on a “social cost of carbon” (SCC) -- an estimate of the monetary value of eliminating one ton of CO2 emissions -- to calculate the benefits used to justify a host of regulatory actions and government subsidies. These include renewable fuel and mileage mandates for our cars, water limits for washing machines and dishwashers and less visible rules that will likely affect the price of food and electricity.

from The Great Debate:

Public backs Obama on strong carbon controls

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Southern Company's Plant Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia, in an aerial file photograph, Sept. 4, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Baltimore

When President Barack Obama announces his new climate change plan Tuesday, he will be addressing a voting public that, despite conventional wisdom, is ready to embrace his key proposal: Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s worthy EPA nominee deserves support

The era of “simple” environmental problems is over. Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulators face issues, like climate change, that are complex from all angles: scientific, economic and political. At the same time, some of the EPA’s regulatory tools—like the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a law that was crafted decades ago—are cumbersome or inadequate. And there is virtually no chance that our gridlocked Congress will come to the rescue and agree on how to modernize reforms.

This complexity makes Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee for EPA Administrator, precisely the kind of leader the agency needs. McCarthy is a strong environmental advocate, but she is pragmatic about how to achieve an end. She has worked across the aisle and with industry leaders to accomplish the EPA’s goals. As an executive at Intel, I’ve worked with McCarthy over the past four years, while she led the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She is a problem solver who relies on science, economics and common sense.

from The Great Debate:

The best solution for climate change is a carbon tax

With Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, stepping down, President Barack Obama is losing one of the few people left in Washington who was willing to speak up about global warming and to push for significant measures to curb its impact. During her tenure, Ms. Jackson was frequently denounced by GOP members of Congress and all too often reined in by Obama. Despite his and Congress’ failure to pass legislation addressing global warming, Ms. Jackson advanced a regulatory agenda to pick up some of the slack.

She managed to see that fuel efficiency standards will increase by 2025, enact stricter pollution controls that must be met before any construction of new coal-fired power plants, and established EPA’s “endangerment finding,” bringing carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act. Her departure, however, highlights the failings of the Obama administration to address global warming in a significant way. In his second term, the president can change that by pushing to enact a carbon tax.

from Environment Forum:

Thank you, EPA: U.S. solar companies

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tomwernerMany businesses chafed on Monday at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's declaration that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health.

But executives at the two largest U.S. solar power companies took a shine to the statement, which clears the way for federal regulation and came as a global climate summit opened in Copenhagen.  Now they'll keep their eyes on Congress to act on future legislation.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

US EPA moves on emissions as Congress stalls

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson announces a new Obama administration position that greenhouse gasses are a threat to public health at the EPA in Washington, December 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday cleared the way for regulation of greenhouse gases without new laws passed by Congress, reflecting President Barack Obama's commitment to act on climate change as a major summit opened in Copenhagen. 

The EPA ruling that greenhouse gases endanger human health, widely expected after it issued a preliminary finding earlier this year, will allow the agency to regulate planet-warming gases even without legislation in Congress.

from James Pethokoukis:

EPA carbon ruling creates an even bigger ‘uncertainty tax’ for business

Call it the Uncertainty Tax. I mean, it is not enough that the American private sector has to deal with the mercurial state of healthcare, financial and tax reform, now it has to calculate the likelihood and impact of  the Obama administration unilaterally imposing draconian carbon rules? Even the EPA calls such efforts inefficient and economically disruptive. A few other thoughts:

1) Expect loads of litigation.

2) Don't expect this to nudge Congress into passing cap-and-trade in 2010.

3)  Did I mention loads of litigation?

4)  It this looks likely, Congress would probably strip the EPA of its authority to do so.

from The Great Debate:

U.S. environmental agency walks a tightrope on CO2

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John Kemp Great DebateThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s proposed findings on greenhouse gas emissions were a carefully worded attempt to appease climate-change activists while containing hostility from business and energy organizations or Congress.

The "endangerment" and "contribute" findings, that greenhouse gases posed a danger to human health, were designed to provide clear signs of progress on a signature issue for the administration while preserving maximum flexibility.

from The Great Debate:

Obama mulls cap-and-trade by decree

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John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Senior U.S. administration officials have indicated that if Congress does not pass comprehensive legislation providing for a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions they will press ahead unilaterally with proposals using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s existing authority under the Clean Air Act.

This is an attempt to gain political leverage after deep divisions within the Democratic Party appeared when 26 Democratic senators rebelled earlier this month and voted for an amendment to the budget resolution barring cap-and-trade being considered as part of the budget.

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