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Two Powerful Blows Against Air Pollution Controls 411

The NYTimes reports from Washington on two separate actions on Friday that, between them, have halted Bush administration clean-air initiatives in their tracks. The current administration is no favorite of environmental groups, but these groups sided with the administration in a court case brought by the utility companies. On Friday an appeals court threw out the EPA's Clean Air Interstate Rule, established in 2005. The court ruled that the EPA had exceeded its authority when it established that rule, which set new requirements for major pollutants. According to the article, even the utilities were appalled to see the rule completely gutted; their objections had been narrower. Here is a podcast with the reporter (MP3) giving some background on the ruling. The second major blow to clean-air efforts came later in the day on Friday. Quoting: "...the EPA chief rejected any obligation to regulate heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide under existing law, saying that to do so would involve an 'unprecedented expansion' of the agency's authority that would have 'a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy,' touching 'every household in the land.'... In effect, Mr. Johnson was simultaneously publishing the policy analysis of his scientific and legal experts and repudiating its conclusions."
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Two Powerful Blows Against Air Pollution Controls

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  • by zenmaster666 ( 1285342 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @09:59PM (#24177201) Journal
    I think I will make the best of this, take my HUMMER out for a ride.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Excellent! That gives me a chance to they out my new RPG!

  • Every American should be fitted with a government issued flatulence belt and sphincter funnel.

  • Strange logic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @10:05PM (#24177237) Journal

    If I get it right, the EPA is allowed to be given authority to do things as long as they have no real effect? Of course the EPA is going to have a profound effect on every sector of the economy. If you curtail CO2 emissions you are basically affecting every step of production delivery and consumption of most goods. That is, after all, the gravity of the situation.

    WTF is the EPA for anyway?

    OTOH this is looking like an episode of Yes Minister, with the approach of overdoing a popular idea to make sure it sinks.

    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      WTF is the EPA for anyway?

      Putting giant domes over Springfield.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If I get it right, the EPA is allowed to be given authority to do things as long as they have no real effect? Of course the EPA is going to have a profound effect on every sector of the economy. If you curtail CO2 emissions you are basically affecting every step of production delivery and consumption of most goods. That is, after all, the gravity of the situation.

      Try turning it around...

      If the CIA wants its spies to freely monitor as many communications of terrorists as possible, then of course its method of eavesdropping going to have a profound impact on the private communications of most US citizens.

      That is, after all, the gravity of the situation. (Whatever that's supposed to mean...)

    • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @10:48PM (#24177443) Journal

      The EPA is basically meaningless. The powers not explicitly granted to the Federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the states, and the people. 10th Amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps the most important Amendment in that it limits the reach of the Federals.

      Unfortunately (for the better part of a century), the Congress has behaved as if there were no restrictions whatsoever on their authority. As if "anything we can dream up, we can do." This is one of those rare times that a federal court seems to understand the Fed (and it's agencies') power is limited.

      And no, "regulation of interstate commerce" clause, so often abused, does not grant this authority; It does not give free reign to the Feds to do anything they wish. Practically speaking, the Framers of the Constitution would not construct a careful balance of power, then undo it all with one clause.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cjb658 ( 1235986 )

        Unfortunately (for the better part of a century), the Congress has behaved as if there were no restrictions whatsoever on their authority. As if "anything we can dream up, we can do." This is one of those rare times that a federal court seems to understand the Fed (and it's agencies') power is limited.

        Exactly. Congress follows the letter of the law, not the spirit. If they think they can get away with passing a blatantly unconstitutional law, nothing stops them from trying, especially if someone with deep pockets wants the law to pass. (See: The War on Drugs, banning online gambling, the 55 MPH speed limit, etc.)

      • If the interstate commerce clause can regulate my growing and selling of marijuana to my neighbor here in California, then I don't see why it can't be used to regulate CO2 emissions, which do cross state lines...

      • by OakLEE ( 91103 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @01:28AM (#24178187)

        I'm not actively disagreeing with you, but your reading of the 10th Amendment is expressly contradictory of the way courts have read it. For most of the Modern Jurisprudential (post-Lochner) Era, the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 10th Amendment has been the following:

        The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the States or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified.

        United States v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716, 733 (1931). [findlaw.com]

        Thus in effect the 10th Amendment is a nullity in terms of its scope and power. There have been attempts to revive the 10th Amendment as a restriction on the Commerce Power--some as recently at the 1970s--but the Court has been quite divided over whether it wants to do this. There's some interesting reading on the subject here [findlaw.com].

      • Two giant leaps for libertarians.

        That is what everyone here claims to be, come FISA and DMCA time, right?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moosesocks ( 264553 )

        As correct as you may be, it seems that the 10th is only invoked whenever the ruling party doesn't like something.

        Although the idea of states' rights is very much open to debate, the wording of the law should be amended to reflect the status quo that's been present ever since the end of the Civil War (remember folks, the constitution is not scripture, and was explicitly designed to be updated as needed).

        For one thing, the 10th was drafted long before the sparsely-populated western states were annexed. Many

    • by Monsuco ( 998964 )

      WTF is the EPA for anyway?

      It's a tool for politicians to be able to yap about how they "care about the environment" while at the same time accomplishing little but disrupting the economy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scott Wood ( 1415 )
      So we should continue to fuck over the environment (a.k.a. the future of the human race) in order to prop up NASDAQ? We need to find ways to accomplish economic necessities without killing the planet in the meantime. Nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, etc. are a great place to start, despite opposition to some elements thereof (OMG, reprocessing nuclear fuel looks like weapons production!!!).
    • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @02:47AM (#24178457)

      Personally, I think that the EPA was right to claim that they can't regulate carbon emissions. The reasoning they stated was absolutely and 100% valid. Regulation of carbon emissions (and other heat trapping gases) is a big deal. You are talking about going from open seasons to something much more restrictive. The vast majority of companies don't even know how much they are dumping out because it is currently unregulated. The EPA regulating carbon emissions would be a very very big deal. It would have some very dramatic effects upon the price and have an effect upon the economy.

      I am not against regulating such emissions, but it isn't up to a government bureaucrat to make such a significant decision. This truly is the role of elected officials. Congress needs to get up off their collective asses and decide what the law of the land should be in terms of green house gas emissions. Congress needs to decide what the balance between the economy and the environment is, and they need to be held responsible if they screw it up. The head of the EPA is absolutely correct in throwing up his hands and saying that this is for congress to sort out, not him.

  • by wfstanle ( 1188751 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @10:30PM (#24177345)

    I don't know. While I am in favor of environmental regulations, the fact that the courts threw out the entire mess might be a blessing in disguise. It will be back to the drawing board and the Bush administration will not have enough time to put new ones into effect. The regulation that the courts threw out probably was filled with loopholes that would let polluters off the hook. Maybe a new (and hopefully environmentally friendly) administration will do it correctly.

    • Even if the legislation was weak it was a base to build off of. This isn't a case where there can only be one form of regulation and even if that was the case the new administration could produce a new one and remove the old. This is in no case a victory for environmentalism either way. It's not like the Bush plan was written in stone (obviously).

      Why do we insist on an all or nothing answer around here? Having someone meet you in the middle is much much better than leaving it to the fates. And leaving it t
    • Maybe a new (and hopefully environmentally friendly) administration will do it correctly

      Like with a Constitutional amendment? Congress (and the agencies it creates, like the EPA) has no right to make these laws without one.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @10:35PM (#24177369)
    Here's [epa.gov] the announcement:
    (Washington, D.C. - July 11, 2008) Today EPA released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) soliciting public input on the effects of climate change and the potential ramifications of the Clean Air Act in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

    And here [epa.gov] is the transcript of Johnson's conference call on the release.

    Finally, here [epa.gov] is the (588 page PDF) document itself.
  • /me (Score:3, Funny)

    by Forrest Kyle ( 955623 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @10:45PM (#24177431) Homepage
    buys stock in the gas mask industry...
  • From what I can tell from reading it, just about everything has been invalidated except for that which concerned vehicles. My opinion it should have also included vehicles.

  • Red Herring (Score:4, Insightful)

    by inKubus ( 199753 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @10:54PM (#24177469) Homepage Journal

    Judging by the utilities response, there were probably some loopholes in this act they already have plans in motion for. The Bush administration is known for making deals with energy. That's why they were shocked to have the whole thing thrown out. Most likely, the holes came down from the top, and the EPA threw in some licensing requirements at the last minute. They lucked out and got the whole thing thrown out.

    There was a lot of selling of coal and natural gas companies on the East Coast in the last few years in anticipation of this act so it probably threw a wrench into the spokes of the alternate plans (nuclear). Most likely Dick Cheney and the nuclear lobby collaborated on this one. You're probably saying, "Dick Cheney?!" Well, yes. Wyoming is home to the largest deposits of uranium around. He's worked at power and energy companies for all his life. The act alone would I'm sure fuel some speculation in the Uranium markets, of which he and his family are major players.

    The 15 year uranium chart [infomine.com] clearly shows this amazing run up culminating in the sell off (in late 2007). I don't think we will be hearing from any of these guys for another 10 years, because they have just pulled the biggest scam in the history of America, they have ALL the money now (and just to make sure they printed a lot of extra and gave it to themselves). Oh, and they all moved to Dubai (Halliburton is now headquartered in Dubai, and deals equally with Euros and trades on the Dubai exchange).

    • Re:Red Herring (Score:5, Informative)

      by Monsuco ( 998964 ) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @11:33PM (#24177671) Homepage

      (Halliburton is now headquartered in Dubai, and deals equally with Euros and trades on the Dubai exchange).

      Partially true. Halliburton's primary headquarters is located Huston, they recently opened a secondary headquarters in Dubai. This makes sense since they have several business interest there. They also have offices in Anchorage, Denver, and a number of other cities scattered through the USA.

  • EPA == Establishment Protection Agency
  • the EPA chief rejected any obligation to regulate heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide under existing law, saying that to do so would involve an 'unprecedented expansion' of the agency's authority that would have 'a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy,' touching 'every household in the land.'

    Well, yeah. If you have the power to declare any substance whatsoever to be a pollutant, and then to heavily regulate its release, you could ruin any industry you wanted in a heartbeat.

    The idea t

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 )

      If you have the power to declare any substance whatsoever to be a pollutant, and then to heavily regulate its release.

      I propose that lobbyists be declared a pollutant.

  • Ask the average person:
    Do you want the government to tell you when you can drive?
    What temperature to set your house at?
    How many kids you can have?
    What you can do, see, eat, or be?

    The average person will tell you that, NO...they don't want any of this. Of course, the same person will say they want OTHERS regulated. The government should come in and regulate companies, they should regulate cities! Regulate farmers, miners, whatever, as long as it doesn't mean THEY are effected.

    If your AVERAGE person real

  • Here's what we know (for sure) about global warming:
    Increases in atmospheric CO2 cause warming.
    Man has been increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    The Earth has been warming.
    However, we cannot link any of these together in a cause and effect relationship, because the Earth has been warming long before man started to emit CO2. The last ice age (10K years ago) is still melting, and the last 1.5K year warming trend is still on the upswing. Water vapor has a more significant effect on warming, and we don't even know if more clouds increase or decrease warming. It would be a HUGE negation of science for the EPA to say that CO2 is a pollutant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician ( 215283 )

      Cause and effect.

      Here's what we know (for sure) about global warming:
      Increases in atmospheric CO2 cause warming.
      Man has been increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
      The Earth has been warming.

      Here is something else we know about global warming.

      Sun cycles cause Global Warming and cooling.
      In past cycles, the CO2 in the atmosphere was at elevated levels. The elevated levels were due to warmer oceans releasing CO2 as they warm. (CO2 levels followed heating, not led it)
      Our Global Warming cycle is the sa

      • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:47AM (#24179371)

        Changes in the sun are not responsible [newscientist.com] for the majority of the observed global warming. They're just too small [nationalgeographic.com].

        Solar forcing (11 year solar flare cycle, increase in brightness etc) is already accounted for in current climate modeling - the 2007 IPCC report put the maximum effect of solar increases at 20%, lower than previous years. Volcanism is even lower.

        Solar forcing was responsible for a lot of warming in the pre-industrial age, and the science is still being looked into for other mechanisms - but at this point, at this time, man-emitted greenhouse gases are the only candidate for the vast majority of the increase in temperature. CO2 and methane from industry, fossil fuels and agriculture are having a big impact on the global climate.

        What the exact impacts will be, and what we can do to mitigate them is a hot topic, but that man is responsible for the sudden and sharp increase in overal global temperature since the industrial age? That's no longer in serious dispute.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by chrb ( 1083577 )

        Our Global Warming cycle is the same as the Global Warmming cycle on Mars.
        My theory is our greenhouse gasses are not responsible for the warming on Mars, but I have no way to prove it one way or another. I also believe that what ever is causing the Mars global warming is also impacting our global warming to a great degree.

        The Mars myth [newscientist.com] was debunked a long time ago...

  • Global warming is just a part of the problem with using fossilized carbon fuels. One of the biggest problems is that it is a finite source of energy. They will run out in a not so distant future.

    CO2 gases arent the only problem either. Cancerogenes and heavy metals arent fun in the long run for our children and the animals. However you look at it its about time we seriously look at other energy sources.

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