The Great Debate
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.
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.
The 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.
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.