Muckraker: Grist on Politics

McCain senior policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin was on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday talking about the need for the next president to enact “comprehensive policies” to create jobs as well as a “real energy policy.” He also took on the recent assertion from Obama’s advisers that their candidate would regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, in the absence of new legislation to curb CO2.

“Sen. Obama has promised that, day one, he would enforce the Clean Air Act, treating carbon dioxide as a pollutant,” said Holtz-Eakin. “That runs the economy from the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a draconian regulatory approach. That’s not a rescue for jobs.”

Actually, Obama’s adviser said that he would first give Congress a year and a half to act. “If there’s no action by Congress in those 18 months, I think any responsible president would want to have the regulatory approach,” said adviser Jason Grumet.

Beyond that, Holtz-Eakin seems to be ignoring the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA last year that the EPA not only can regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act, but has a legal obligation to do so.

When Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, it authorized the EPA to regulate “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive (including source material, special nuclear material, and byproduct material) substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air,” as David pointed out last week. This is essentially what the highest court in the land recognized in last year’s decision.

Yet the Bush administration has rejected the Supreme Court’s decision, and punted action to the next administration. EPA head Stephen Johnson has argued that the Clean Air Act is “ill-suited for the task of regulating greenhouse gases,” akin to fitting a “square peg in a round hole.” He has said that “it should be Congress’s responsibility” to pass new legislation specifically regarding greenhouse-gas emissions.

Up until this point, McCain and his advisers have been largely silent about how and if he’d address emissions in the absence of a new, CO2-specific law. But Holtz-Eakin’s statements sure make it sound like McCain would continue the Bush administration’s policy of not regulating CO2 under the Clean Air Act, despite direction from the Supremes.

Moreover, Holtz-Eakin appears to question whether CO2 is a pollutant at all.

Here’s the video: