In an interview notable for his claim that government pressure on BP is “un-American,” anti-government extremist Rand Paul (R-KY) attacks the EPA for preparing to use its power to regulate greenhouse gasses if Congress does not pass a comprehensive energy plan–falsely claiming that EPA is thwarting the will of Congress:
I find it particularly galling that the EPA puts out a press release and says that if Congress doesn’t do anything about greenhouse emissions that they will. I think that’s a regulatory commission run amok and I think we need to have congressional oversight. I don’t think regulatory agencies should write regulations without approval of the people through their representatives. And I stick to that and that’s absolutely my point of view.
Were Paul correct that Congress has not passed a law enabling EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses, then he would have a point. But he must have forgotten about the Clean Air Act, which gives EPA broad authority to regulate “air pollutants.” Indeed, in 2007, the Bush Administration made a similar argument to Paul’s, defending its decision not to regulate greenhouse emissions by motor vehicles by arguing that such emissions are beyond EPA’s power to regulate. The Supreme Court smacked them down:
While the Congresses that drafted [the Clean Air Act] might not have appreciated the possibility that burning fossil fuels could lead to global warming, they did understand that without regulatory flexibility, changing circumstances and scientific developments would soon render the Clean Air Act obsolete. The broad language . . . reflects an intentional effort to confer the flexibility necessary to forestall such obsolescence. Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of “air pollutant,” we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles.
Paul is correct that Congress has not passed comprehensive energy legislation this year, but so what? Congress also did not pass comprehensive worker safety legislation this year, but no one suggests that OSHA lost its power to protect workers simply because Congress didn’t recently give them even broader authority.
So it turns out that the only thing that’s “run amok” is Rand Paul’s mouth. Maybe next time he’ll actually bother to learn the facts before he pretends to be a legal expert on national TV.