The budget compromise that averted a federal government shutdown nearly foundered upon the rocks of Republican riders, one of which would have stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Speaking as someone who favors greenhouse restrictions, I wish the Republican rider — dropped just before the clock struck midnight — had succeeded.
The EPA is trying to restrict greenhouse gases using a 41-year-old statute intended for another purpose. Republicans are right to object to this.
Of course, most Republicans don’t want any greenhouse gas regulation at all — though greenhouse regulation is now justified by a strong body of science, including by statements from George W. Bush’s Climate Change Science Program. Greenhouse regulation probably will not cost anywhere near as much as current estimates. All previous programs to control air emissions have proven significantly cheaper than expected. Republicans are correct, though, that the EPA is going about this in the wrong way.
Only a global warming program enacted by Congress will have political validity. A backdoor attempt — federal bureaucrats using strained interpretations of old laws, leading to solutions imposed by judges — will be illegitimate in the eyes of voters. Americans are sick of bureaucrats and judges trying to dictate policy. Laws passed by Congress, on the other hand, clearly are legitimate politically. You may not like any particular law passed by Congress — but that’s where the Constitution vests the power in our system.
Thus Congress must speak on greenhouse gases. Backdoor bureaucratic attempts will only discredit climate change action.