In a bizarre pop-culture flip-flop, Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute has compared the mild-mannered EPA administrator to Dirty Harry:
Let me get this straight, the right-wing is now saying it’s bad to be like Clint, the quintessential tough guy hero lionized by conservatives because he’ll do whatever is needed to save human life? That means Green is directly equating U.S. industry with the psychopathic serial killer and criminals that Clint fights in the iconic 1971 movie.
Well, logic was never a priority of Denier-Industrial-Complex Kooks (DICKs) like Green, who regularly spouts nonsense like, “We’re back to the average temperatures that prevailed in 1978…. No matter what you’ve been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly” — from a 2008 speech AEI later removed from their website (excerpts here).
In fact, Green’s analogy makes no sense whatsoever since Jackson is simply obeying the command of the highest court in the land to regulate carbon pollution (see here). Green entirely omits the fact that in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were pollutants and that the EPA would have to regulate them if they were found to endanger public health and welfare.
So the only part of the analogy that makes sense is that deniers and delayers like Green oppose the rule of law — while Jackson is trying to enforce it.
Ironically, in its zealous quest to kill climate action, AEI has done another flip-flop. Jackson proposes to start regulating only “large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year.” Jackson explained, “This is a common sense rule that is carefully tailored to apply to only the largest sources — those from sectors responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources.” She told the Governors Climate Summit in Los Angeles, “we can begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitting facilities without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the vast majority of our economy,” adding, “The corner coffee shop is not a meaningful place to look for carbon reductions.”
But Green doesn’t believe in common sense — he urges big polluters to sue to make sure small businesses and farmers are regulated also:
For that matter, the large emitters would be wise to sue for this also, both to ensure that they’re not the only ones disadvantaged by the EPA’s actions, and to make manifest the insanity involved with EPA regulating greenhouse gases.
Note that for Green and the American Enterprise Institute, obeying the Supreme Court is “insanity.” You don’t have to be Dirty Harry to realize which side of the law he is on.
Fundamentally, Green wants to use the legal system to pervert the process. And this scorched earth strategy is one the big polluters are threatening, too. I’ll end this post with an analysis — “It’s Hard To Hide An Oil Refinery Behind a Donut Shop” — from David Doniger, Policy Director at NRDC’s Climate Center, and former “director of climate change policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and, before that, counsel to the head of the EPA’s clean air program”:
Two years ago, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that EPA has the authority and responsibility to use the existing Clean Air Act to cut dangerous global warming pollution. And under President Obama, EPA is starting act. Under the clean car peace treaty unveiled in the Rose Garden last March, Administrator Jackson has proposed nationwide global warming pollution standards for new cars and trucks, modeled on California’s path-breaking standards. And EPA is working on carbon limits for big power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, and other big factories responsible for most of our heat-trapping pollution.In a fairly desperate reaction, some of America’s biggest polluters – led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Petroleum Refiners Association (NPRA), and others – are trying to scare America’s small businesses owners into thinking it’s them that the EPA is after.
If they force me to curb my pollution, the big boys say, they’ll come after schools, homes, and hot dog stands. No one is safe, they shout. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
But it’s hard to hide an oil refinery behind a donut shop.
So what is EPA really doing?
Well, when EPA issues its final clean car standards next March, certain other things happen automatically under the Clean Air Act. The most important is that when companies build or expand big pollution sources — power plants, oil refineries, or cement kilns, for example — they will have to install the “best available control technology” (BACT) for carbon dioxide and the other global warming pollutants. This is nothing fancy. It’s what they’ve done for years for other dangerous pollutants like sulfur dioxide.
EPA is proposing to set “thresholds” — carbon pollution levels that separate big sources that will have to meet these requirements from small ones that will not.
This is a common sense concept that NRDC and other environmental groups proposed a more than a year ago.
But along come lawyers and spokesmen for the big boys arguing that EPA can’t do that. If you regulate any of us, you have to regulate all of us, down to the donut shop.
It’s hostage taking. We’re gonna take everyone down with us. Listen to Charles Drevna, of the National Petroleum Refiners Association:
“This proposal incorrectly assumes that one industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are worse than another’s,” Drevna said. “Greenhouse gas emissions are global in nature, and are not isolated to a few select industries. The Clean Air Act stipulates unequivocally that the threshold to permit major sources is 250 tons for criteria pollutants. EPA lacks the legal authority to categorically exempt sources that exceed the Clean Air Act’s major source threshold from permitting requirements, and this creates a troubling precedent for any agency actions in the future.”
EPA argues that it can set a different threshold — it has proposed 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide — to recognize that each power plant or other big source emits roughly 100 times more carbon dioxide than conventional pollutants like sulfur dioxide. Accordingly, EPA says the proposed 25,000 ton threshold respects Congress’s decisions about which big plants should have to install the best available control technology, and which small ones should not. Congress, EPA contends, never wanted to treat mom and pop shops the same as the big boys. In short, EPA argues that its new thresholds avoid absurd results and administrative nightmares.
The big boys’ lawyers are getting ready to argue that EPA can’t do this, that only Congress can change these threshold numbers. They claim the courts will strike EPA’s rule down. But who’ll bring that suit? It won’t be NRDC or any of the other environmental groups active in this fight. And it’s not clear that the big boys have “standing” – the kind of legal injury needed to take to take this complaint to court. And the courts themselves have recognized the doctrines of avoiding absurd results and administrative nightmares.
So I’m betting on EPA. And then, with small businesses safely shielded, the Chamber and NPRA will have no one to hide behind.
What’s more likely is that Congress will clear this up well before the courts weigh in, by writing the EPA’s thresholds into new comprehensive climate and energy legislation. That’s an idea with support from both environmental organizations and responsible companies.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but it’s never too late for the Chamber and its allies to stop the scare-mongering and join the effort to pass this new legislation.
Well, the Chamber’s call for a ‘Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century’ worked out so well for them (see “Nike runs fast and loud from the incredible, shrinking U.S. Chamber Board over its global warming denial“), that if they want to pursue this lawsuit, which I suspect will be equally popular with their members, I say, “Go ahead, make my day!”