More big news out of EPA today: The legal mind behind one of the most important environmental cases of the past decade appears to be headed to the EPA to advise Administrator Lisa Jackson on climate change issues, according to a published report.
Joining Jackson’s team will be Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling, the lead author of the plaintiffs’ briefs in Massachusetts v. EPA, the court case settled by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Via TPMDC, here’s the Carbon Control News ($ub req’d) report on the news:
In the Supreme Court case, Heinzerling was the lead author of arguments from a coalition of environmentalists and states claiming EPA had a legal obligation to address greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. The court agreed, and EPA has been struggling for the past several years on how to fulfill that obligation. Heinzerling’s presence at EPA could help the agency craft climate change policies and potential regulations that conform with the high court ruling and can withstand future legal challenges.
The EPA press office would not confirm the Heinzerling news, saying only that Jackson “is building a team to help implement the President’s environmental agenda and it will be announced shortly.” Heinzerling’s voicemail recording at Georgetown says she is on a two-year leave from the school because she has “taken a position in the new administration.” Georgetown Law officials declined to comment.
If the news is confirmed, it will be a significant development, considering that the EPA is going to have to follow through with the endangerment finding mandated by the Supreme Court in that case. The Bush administration refused to make a finding, but Jackson has pledged to complete the work. At her confirmation hearing earlier this month, Jackson said that the endangerment finding “will indeed trigger the beginnings of regulation of CO2 for this country.”
Heinzerling is also the co-author of Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, in which the authors reject the idea that government policy should be based on a cost-benefit analysis. She’s even blogged for Grist about how that relates to climate policy.
“Cost-benefit analysis also produces results that are kin to neither reason nor compassion. Scientists around the world now urge us to act quickly to prevent catastrophic effects from climate change,” wrote Heinzerling last May. “Many economists soberly advise us to do nothing, or very little, because their calculations demonstrate that the future is worth very little, that people prefer warm weather to cold, and that humans in poor countries are not worth as much as humans in rich ones. These calculations are not the work of the radical fringe in economics; they come from highly regarded cost-benefit practitioners. But they are unreasonable and uncompassionate all the same.”
Her role in the new administration will be an important one, especially when coupled with others on the Obama team like Obama’s pick to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs head, Cass Sunstein, who is an outspoken proponent of cost-benefit analysis. Quite the team of rivals this is shaping up to be. (BTW, the L.A. Times has a big piece today on how enviros and consumer groups are turning the heat up on the Sunstein nomination).