NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 8, 2009

Officials gathered in Copenhagen this week for an international climate summit, but business leaders are focusing even more on Washington, where the Obama Administration formally declared on Monday that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant.

An "endangerment" finding by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could pave the way for the government to require businesses that emit carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to make costly changes in machinery to reduce emissions -- even if Congress doesn't pass pending climate-change legislation.  EPA action to regulate emissions could affect the U.S. economy more directly, and more quickly, than any global deal inked in the Danish capital, where no binding agreement is expected, says the Wall Street Journal.

Many business groups are opposed to EPA efforts to curb a gas as ubiquitous as carbon dioxide, says the Journal:

  • 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, says U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.
  • EPA action won't do much to combat climate change and is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy, says the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that stands as a proxy for U.S. industry.
  • Dan Riedinger, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a power-industry trade group, says the EPA would be less likely than Congress to come up with an "economywide approach" to regulating emissions; the power industry prefers such an approach because it would spread the burden of emission cuts to other industries as well.

Electricity generation, transportation and industry represent the three largest sources of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, says the Journal:

  • An endangerment finding would allow the EPA to use the federal Clean Air Act to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, which are produced whenever fossil fuel is burned.
  • Under that law, the EPA could require emitters of as little as 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year to install new technology to curb their emissions starting as soon as 2012.
  • The EPA has said it will only require permits from big emitters -- facilities that put out 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.
  • But that effort to tailor the regulations to avoid slamming small businesses with new costs is expected to be challenged in court.

Source: Jeffrey Ball and Charles Forelle, "Business Fumes Over Carbon Dioxide Rule," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2009.

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