NY Times: Clean Air Under Siege

The NYT‘s lead editorial today is worth excerpting at length:

Shortly after he entered the Senate in 2007, John Barrasso told his Wyoming constituents that the country’s biggest need was an energy policy to deal with carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

That was then. In lockstep with other Senate Republicans, he helped kill last year’s energy and climate bill. Now he has introduced a bill that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency and any other part of the federal government from regulating carbon pollution.

Congress’s failure to enact a climate bill means that the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate these gases “” an authority conferred by a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2007 “” is, for now, the only tool available to the federal government to combat global warming.

The modest regulations the agency has already proposed, plus stronger ones it will issue later this year, should lead to the retirement of many of the nation’s older, dirtier coal-fired power plants and a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.

Mr. Barrasso’s bill is not an isolated challenge. Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” has unveiled a somewhat narrower bill to undercut the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican and new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, simultaneously introduced a companion bill.

There are a half-dozen other such measures in circulation, at least one of which would weaken the agency’s long-held powers to regulate conventional ground-level pollutants like soot and mercury.

One or another of these bills has a real shot in the Republican-controlled House. Their chances are slimmer in the Senate, where the bigger danger is a proposal by Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, that would block any new regulations on power plants and other industrial sources for two years.

That is just obstruction by another name. It would delay modernization and ensure that more carbon is dumped into the atmosphere. History shows that regulatory delays have a way of becoming permanent.

It is tempting to blame the entire energy industry for these attacks on the E.P.A.’s authority. The oil companies are pushing hard against any new rules….

The agency does have a heavy regulatory agenda. It will issue proposals not only on greenhouse gases but also ozone, sulfur dioxide, and mercury, which poisons lakes and fish. These regulations are fully consistent with the Clean Air Act. Some of them should have been completed during the Bush years; all are essential to protect the environment. The agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, has moved cautiously, making clear that she will target only the largest polluters and not, as the Republicans claim, mom-and-pop businesses.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised to protect “common-sense safeguards” to the nation’s environment. The rules under siege in Congress will help clean the air, reduce toxic pollution in fish and slow emissions of greenhouse gases. It is hard to imagine anything more sensible than that.

Hear!  Hear!

9 Responses to NY Times: Clean Air Under Siege

  1. Chris Winter says:

    These continuing efforts by Republicans are part of a historical pattern that began with Reagan’s election to the presidency — a pattern designed to weaken environmental protections for the majority of Americans, to the benefit of powerful elites, whose wealth insulates them to a degree. This from a party that loudly praises the Constitution at every opportunity. It makes me wonder what part of “promote the general welfare” they fail to understand.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Good for the Times. I’m puzzled about the Democrats’ unwillingness to make this a clarion call. Who are they afraid of? Nelson and Rockefeller?

    Until the Democrats commit to awakening the American people to the horror of what the opposition is proposing, we will continue to have a difficult battle.

  3. Berbalang says:

    The cartoon reminds me ot the premise of the movie “Idiocracy” and I can picture the GOP requiring the watering of the nation’s crops with sports drink.

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    Mike –

    Let us remember that Republicans are making simultaneous attacks on all fronts: taxes, budgets, health care, women’s rights, sexual preference, military spending, war, secrecy — “creating their own reality” as they go.

    There are folks on TV and radio selling hatred and fear 24/7 on each of these issues. They make millions for themselves, and billions for their owners. There is a lot of money and power in all these lies.

    It is difficult to speak effectively, let alone legislate, during these barrages. I thank every legislator, journalist, and citizen who sees through the guff. Let’s help them as much as we can.

    None of this will be easy. None of this will be finished in our lifetimes. So don’t worry — we’ll always have work to do.

  5. Ziyu says:

    Republicans are telling the truth when they say mom and pop businesses will be affected. The only problem is that they define mom and pop businesses as mega corporations owned by very wealthy moms and pops.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’m just not convinced that Republican opposition to all environmental protection can be put down to protecting economic privilege. I mean the level of stupidity required to close one’s eyes to the hideous multitude of ecological crises and their utterly dire implications for humanity seems inconsistent with sentient, let alone sapient, life. I expect such a level of imbecility from the Dunning-Krugerite rabble, given the well-known distribution of intelligence and moral perception and the influence of absolutely relentless MSM brainwashing in reducing what native wit there was to babbling idiocy, but surely the masters and their political stooges are not that thick. I’m convinced that we are either dealing with people so hideously antipathetic to life that they either do not care what happens after their death, even to their own children, or so deluded that they really imagine that their wealth will allow them to survive the horrors to come and prosper even more in a planet denuded of those billions of ‘useless eaters’ they fear and despise. Either course is insane, but I see no other rational explanation for such determinedly suicidal behaviour.

  7. JD says:

    The EPA’s actions to begin regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act are often characterized as a choice being made by the Obama Administration – a unitary executive setting his own agenda. This is untrue. The EPA is following a statute that they were tasked by Congress to administer. Once the EPA made its 2009 endangerment finding (in response to the Mass v. EPA opinion), the Clean Air Act compelled the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. The Clean Air Act has explicit language that, upon an endangerment finding, the EPA “shall” do a number of things; issue new source performance standards, require best available control technology, and potentially set NAAQS. If the EPA fails to follow these requirements they will be enjoined in the courts (as they were in Mass v. EPA to respond to the petitions for an endangerment finding in the first place).

    The distinction between following a statutory mandate and voluntary choosing to regulate under a statute is important, and we need to be sure to defend the Obama Administration on this front whenever possible.

    Nathan Richardson at Resources for the Future has a much longer article on this if you are interested in reading more:

  8. Edward says:

    The REpublicans are always trying to undo everything that FDR did as well as the EPA. Nothing new. Just a combination of psychopathy, greed and wealth.

  9. There are many reasons why the Republicans are dismissing Global Warming. Some of these I jotted below:

    Polls indicate that only 6% of US scientists consider themselves Republicans!

    That can explain why the Republicans members of Congress and most Republicans, can not accept the reality of global warming. They are afraid of reality.

    To be a scientist you need to be open to reality, understand and accept facts, separate your personal bias from your research, and be willing to be found wrong if the evidence indicates so.

    Scientific inquiry is generally intended to be as objective as possible, to reduce biased interpretations of results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, giving them the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure.


    The open scientific method is unacceptable to most Republicans. This is why so few scientists are Republicans.

    Most Republicans are unable and unwilling to accept facts that do not agree with their ideology. And this ideology is based on the dreams of the inherent superiority of the US, and our “ability” to rule over nature.

    We all fear change. Our world was so secure. We won WWII, the “good war”. We were respected around the world. We went to the moon in a few years. We destroyed the Evil Empire. We were the center of the universe in our minds. We were Americans.

    All of these are changing rapidly; many of the things that formed the core of our everyday life are no longer able to hold us up. Terrorism shows our military weakness, our currency is weaker than the Euro, and the Chinese are the biggest producers in the world. Our wealth is flowing overseas in big chunks yearly. Our financial systems nearly collapse. Our homes are no longer our source of wealth. These are just some examples why we are so fearful.

    We try to hold on to the past to reduce our fear of the unknown future. Too many Republicans reject reality.

    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

    Aldus Huxley

    We can not hold on to the past. It has never worked. Humans were able to leave their caves and create modern societies by rejecting superstition and accepting facts and using reason. This openness to facts eventually progressed to develop the scientific method which accepts the physical reality of our universe.

    Let’s be clear: Too many Democrats are also unable to fully grasp the danger and reality of Global Warming. If they did their Congresspersons would not be so reluctant to fight GW on the scale it must be fought.

    Of all advanced countries, only the US is refusing to do anything about GW!

    Our self centeredness is deteriorating the global climate and increasing human suffering day by day.