WSJ.com REVIEW & OUTLOOK MARCH 15, 2011
Carbon and Democracy
Congress gets ready to overrule the EPA on cap and trade rules.
Get a load of this. Some Members of Congress actually think that Congress should have a say in whether or not the government regulates carbon [dioxide]. Some of them even want to have a debate about it first. Don't these yahoos understand that democratic consent doesn't apply to the Environmental Protection Agency?
Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee began debating a bill that would prohibit the EPA from abusing the clean air laws of the 1970s to impose the climate regulations that Congress has refused to pass despite President Obama's entreaties. As EPA chief Lisa Jackson put it with her customary reserve at a hearing last week, the measure "would presume to overrule the scientific community on the scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers Americans' health and well-being. Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question . . ."
We'll spare you the rest, though Ms. Jackson mentioned "science" a few more times in case anyone didn't get the drift. But the real presumption is that an unaccountable bureaucracy should use its self-assigned powers to make inherently political choices that will be a colossal drag on economic growth.
The bill, which the committee will likely approve today and the House will likely pass later this spring, would restore the plain regulatory meaning that "pollutant" held for decades until the EPA decided in 2009 that all of a sudden it also applied to carbon [dioxide]. John Dingell helped write the Clean Air Act and its 1990 revision, and the Michigan Democrat has repeatedly said that neither was ever meant to address climate.
Other critics of the EPA's carbon agenda include Senate Democrats like West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller and Ohio's Sherrod Brown, neither of whom is otherwise known for business sympathies. But they understand that the EPA is about to unleash an economy-wide deluge of new rules and mandates that is already costly and destructive, and it has barely begun.
Mr. Rockefeller is sponsoring a Senate bill that would freeze regulation for two years, but the House bill is a better approach because it is a permanent solution. The EPA's carbon putsch has been arbitrary, politically driven and frequently illegal, and it won't be any less reckless two years from now.
Whatever Ms. Jackson's appeals to "science," as if democracy doesn't matter, her conception of an autonomous regulatory state should offend any elected politician. The harm the EPA is inflicting is bad enough, but let's start with such basics as the rule of law and representative government.