Wicker: EPA Should Not Set Radical Greenhouse Gas Regulations

American Voices Should be Heard in Climate Debate

June 14, 2010

Last week, the Senate missed a golden opportunity to protect Americans from higher taxes, higher energy costs, and an overreaching federal bureaucracy. By a narrow margin of 47 to 53, the Senate voted not to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation designed to cap greenhouse gas emissions.  I voted in favor of this “resolution of disapproval” for two basic reasons.  First, I strongly feel that any policy changes concerning energy and global warming should be taken by elected representatives in Congress.  Second, the proposed actions of the EPA will severely damage our economy, putting at risk jobs and the quality of life for millions of American families.
                         Misguided Regulations
In 2007, the Supreme Court authorized the EPA to study greenhouse emissions and issue regulations about these carbon dioxide gasses.  In my view, this 5-4 decision was wrong and amounted to an intrusion into Congressional authority.  As Justice Antonin Scalia said in a dissenting opinion, “This Court has no business substituting its own desired outcome for the reasoned judgment of the responsible agency.”

Even so, there was no mandate by the Court for the EPA to act – only a requirement that the agency consider whether greenhouse gasses should be added to the list of pollutants.

When Democrats took over the White House and increased their Congressional majorities in January of 2009, they immediately set about to enact their radical cap and trade plan, which amounts to a severe tax on the energy costs of every American.  The measure barely squeaked by the House of Representatives in June of 2009 with 44 Democrats joining almost all Republicans in opposition.  As more and more people have come to understand the consequences of the cap and tax scheme, public opposition has grown.  Based on the increased outcry against the proposal, the Senate leadership realizes there is very little chance for such a bill this year in the Senate.  The EPA’s decision to impose its own climate change policy is a dangerous attempt to substitute its will for that of Congress and the people we represent.

This would be an extreme power-grab by a federal bureaucracy.  The EPA has an important role in preventing and reducing pollution, including those hazards related to industrial sewage, toxic chemical disposal, and safe drinking water standards.  However, carbon dioxide is an entirely different matter.  Congress has never defined carbon dioxide as a pollutant.  It is a natural byproduct of breathing, essential to the growth of plants, and emitted from volcanoes during eruption.

                         Ongoing Scientific Debate
You would never know it from press accounts, but there continues to be a serious scholarly debate about climate science and the relationship between global warming and the levels of carbon dioxide.  I continue to believe that there is not enough scientific basis for regulating emissions or pursuing a cap and trade approach.  Scientists are divided over what impact carbon dioxide has on the Earth’s temperatures.  There are nearly 450 peer-reviewed academic journal articles questioning man-made global warming.  Over 31,000 American scientists have publicly rejected the science behind the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement on climate change.

Last year, in the lead-up to the international climate change conference in Copenhagen, we saw one of the sharpest blows to the global warming movement yet.  A decade’s worth of email correspondence between leading British and American scientists revealed that some global warming proponents have suppressed scientific findings that undermine their case.  Many of the same scientists involved in the email controversy also wrote the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) science reports.  What is more troubling is that the IPCC’s flawed science served as a critical basis for the EPA’s endangerment finding.  The actions of the EPA are based on faulty science, and the agency risks future embarrassment if it moves forward with the regulations.   

                              Future Uncertain
Although we were unsuccessful in passing the resolution of disapproval, the bipartisan opposition to the EPA proposal still sends an important message.  Last December, I urged the President not to commit the United States to any global climate accord without the clear backing of Congress and the American people.  The President needs the same advice today.  He should not try to force his will on the American people through a flawed policy that would increase taxes and energy expenses for all Americans and cost us jobs.