Thursday, October 01, 2009

EPA's Lisa P. Jackson Is About To Take Center Stage


By Norris McDonald

The Environmental Protection Agency Adminstrator Lisa P. Jackson, below left, is about to become the focal point in the debate about what America should do to address global climate change. Glenn Beck will pull out the blackboard and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will line up the business community against a cap and trade program. The opening shots in this duel have been fired: Boxer/Kerry climate legislation has been proposed in the Senate and EPA has announced greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. Nobody expects the climate change legislation to pass this year so that leaves Adminstrator Jackson as the nucleus of the climate change atom.

So what does this mean? It means that industry groups that oppose climate legislation, particularly the cap and trade component, will prepare to litigate. We hate litigation at the Center. We love it when a program, such as the Acid Rain Program, can work because all parties agree with its effectiveness. It means the 'Inside the Beltway' politics will crank up the partisan machine: one side will try to drum it into oblivion by calling it a 'Cap and Tax,' and the other side will say the 'Sky is Falling and we could lose the polar bear.' The Center supports cap and trade and will support any bill that includes it. We support Waxman/Markey and Boxer/Kerry.

The opposition has already signaled one area of attack against EPA's regulatory approach: critics will complain and prepare to litigate that the Clean Air Act specifically states that any facility emitting more than 250 tons per year of a regulated pollutant is a "major source." This would cover more than a million buildings, including schools, churches, and hospitals that emit more than 250 tons of CO2 every year. The question is can EPA modify the regulation by changing the 250 ton number to 25,000 tons without an act of Congress? Interestingly, all parties agree that legislation is better than unilateral EPA regulations.

Yet, aren't the current CO2 proposals for cap and trade the same as the Clear Skies Initiative of the Bush administration? Just related to CO2 instead of other criteria air pollutants. Yes they are. Will utilizing New Source Review at EPA as the vehicle for CO2 reductions lead to the same stalemate between engineers and lawyers regarding 'major modification' versus 'routine maintenance?'

Regardless, Lisa P. Jackson will be the face of American global climate change initiatives. And those who oppose president Obama, and now perceived 'big government' solutions, will target Administrator Jackson as the symbol of their perceived prospective pain.

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