Muckraker: Grist on Politics

In an interview with Bloomberg, Obama energy adviser Jason Grumet said that Obama would regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Grumet said Obama “would initiate those rulemakings,” authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and manufacturers. This would, in effect, make good on the Supreme Court’s ruling in April 2007 that the EPA could and should regulate emissions under the 1990 act, in the absence of a new law specifically regarding carbon dioxide emissions. Despite the court’s ruling, the Bush administration has declined to curb CO2 emissions under the law, and punted action to the next administration.

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“The EPA is obligated to move forward in the absence of Congressional action,” Grumet told Bloomberg. “If there’s no action by Congress in those 18 months, I think any responsible president would want to have the regulatory approach.”

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Bush administration EPA head Stephen Johnson has argued that the Clean Air Act is “ill-suited for the task of regulating greenhouse gases,” and to do so would be fitting a “square peg in a round hole.” He has said that “it should be Congress’s responsibility” to pass new regulations specifically regarding greenhouse-gas emissions: “If we’re serious about addressing climate change, the Clean Air Act is not the way to do it.”

Grumet, who serves as the executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, said that Obama would use the tools already at hand to proceed on regulating emissions, as both the Supreme Court and EPA staffers have said is both possible and necessary.

“[Obama’s] not going to insert political judgments to interrupt the recommendations of the scientific efforts,” said Grumet.

“The U.S. has to move quickly domestically so we can get back in the game internationally,” he continued. “We cannot have a meaningful impact in the international discussion until we develop a meaningful domestic consensus. So he’ll move quickly.”

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Neither Republican candidate John McCain nor his advisers have spoken publicly about if or how he would regulate emissions under the act.