NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 7, 2008

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and more than a dozen other conservative groups filed an amicus brief March 21 against a Sierra Club petition demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new electric power plants, says writer Richard Morrison.

The purpose of the Clean Air Act is to protect public health and welfare from hazards created by airborne pollutants:

  • The act\'s fundamental logic requires that EPA first determine the dangerousness of an air pollutant before taking steps to regulate it.
  • In the case of CO2, EPA has not yet issued a finding that CO2 emissions endanger public health or welfare.
  • Sierra Club\'s "regulate first, ask questions" later approach stands the logic of the Clean Air Act on its head.

The Sierra Club claims that the Supreme Court global warming case, Massachusetts v. EPA (April 2, 2007), supports its position that CO2 is an air pollutant currently subject to regulation for purposes of the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program.

If Sierra Club wins the litigation, potentially hundreds of thousands of previously unregulated small- to mid-sized farms, factories and buildings would have to go through the costly and time-consuming PSD permitting process, because the statutory threshold for regulation under PSD is 250 tons a year.  Two hundred and fifty tons may be a significant amount of smog- or soot-forming emissions, but it is a minuscule amount of CO2, said Lewis.  A commercial kitchen that uses natural gas for cooking, or a mid-sized office building heated with gas or oil probably emits 250 tons of CO2 annually.

Source: Richard Morrison, "CEI Fights Sierra Club Demands for CO2," Human Events, April 3, 2008.

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