The EPA Rolls On

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The Environmental Protection Agency is legally bound to regulate atmospheric pollutants that pose substantial harm to the population. That, as scientists and the courts agree, includes greenhouse gas pollution that’s driving climate change. Today, the EPA is taking another step toward meeting its legal obligations and business groups are freaking out:

An EPA endangerment finding “could result in a top-down command-and-control regime that will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in a statement. “The devil will be in the details, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure we don’t stifle our economic recovery,” he said, noting that the group supports federal legislation.

EPA action won’t do much to combat climate change, and “is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy,” said the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that stands as a proxy for U.S. industry.

The idea that the EPA is going to transform the United States into a command-and-control economy is overblown. But it’s quite true that EPA efforts will be both less effective at combating climate change and also more expensive per unit of pollution-reduction than would be some alternative schemes. For example, the ACES bill steered through the House by Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi, and Ed Markey would be better on both fronts. But you don’t see the Chamber of Commerce or the NAM backing ACES. Even better than ACES from an economic point of view would be a bill with fewer side-deals, more auctioning of permits, and more rebates of the funds to the population. But you don’t see the Chamber or the NAM backing that, either. They just want to somehow sweep the whole problem under the rug and leave it up to their grandkids to suffer the consequences. There are a wide range of policy approaches that are consistent with the goal of averting catastrophic climate change, but this do nothing stance is not acceptable.