The E.P.A., California, and carbon dioxide
26 Jun, 2008 12:55 pm
Remember how the State of California sued the Environmental Protection Agency last November to force a decision on whether it could get a waiver to impose CO2 emissions standards on cars and light trucks?
The EPA initially refused to act on California's application, saying the agency did not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant. That changed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that the EPA did indeed have that right. As a result, the EPA is now developing greenhouse gas regulations that are scheduled to be released by the end of the year. Environmental groups say those regulations are unlikely to be stronger than California standards. That was November.
In New York Times we read this: "The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency's conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened", senior E.P.A. officials said last week.
The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.'s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said. Senior officials at the E.P.A., speaking on condition of anonymity, say that the document referred to above "showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases," one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. "That's not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can't work."
There is room for disagreement about how the government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and it is appropriate for political values to play a role in making policy choices. Indeed, political values have to play a role in making policy choices.1 But... The Times article goes on to report that "Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years."
That doesn't sound like weighing options in light of the evidence to determine the choice of policy. It sounds like cooking the books to get evidence to make the policy you choose look better than it really is. But wait. Maybe I'm a member of the "reality-based" community, i.e., one of those people who "believe[s] that solutions emerge from [my] judicious study of discernible reality."
Originally published on: Uncommon Ground