Industry Trade Groups Slash and Burn

N. Jonathan Peress

Recent industry legal action to prevent the regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is an eye-opener suggesting a slash and burn strategy that threatens to undo years of successful regulation of air pollution under the Clean Air Act.  Various industry trade groups including the American Chemistry Council, National Association of Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute are waging a full scale war to prevent regulation of GHG emissions and recently initiated a coordinated, broad and covert legal attack (with no press or public outreach) on EPA’s permitting authority.

On July 6, the coalition of industry groups filed 12 similar legal petitions challenging not only EPA’s authority to regulate GHGs, but also the fundamental underpinnings of EPA’s 30 year old permitting program for large emitting facilities.  These appeals present a clear and unequivocal message to EPA and the public: try to impose reductions in GHG emissions and we will attack the core of the greenhouse gas regulations adopted in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in MA v. EPA and EPA’s ability to regulate large emitters through its preconstruction (PSD) permitting program in the first instance.   With a key message like that—tone deaf to public awareness and concern about climate change—no wonder the industry trade group petitioners did not seek publicity.

Recent statements from Senator Murkowski suggest that she and her allied colleagues have been briefed and support this strategy.  According to Politico.com,

Key coal-state Democrats and nearly all Republicans are also unified in their bid to slow down the EPA via legislation – and they’re determined to force a series of votes on the issue before the next big suite of rules start kicking in next January.

“You attack it at all fronts,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a leading advocate for stopping the EPA, told POLITICO. “You go the judicial route. You go the legislative route. I think this is important to make sure we are looking at all avenues.”

CLF is intervening (co-represented by attorneys from the Clean Air Task Force) along with other environmental groups in these recent challenges as well as several prior challenges to EPA’s authority to regulate GHGs. The vehemence of these positions, and the obvious coordination among a broad cross section of industries to prevent regulation of GHGs, unfortunately suggest that US policy on climate change will not be advanced through bottom up, traditional legislative initiatives in Congress.

As Bill McKibben asserted in Tomdispatch.com,

If we’re going to get any of this done, we’re going to need a movement, the one thing we haven’t had. For 20 years environmentalists have operated on the notion that we’d get action if we simply had scientists explain to politicians and CEOs that our current ways were ending the Holocene, the current geological epoch. That turns out, quite conclusively, not to work. We need to be able to explain that their current ways will end something they actually care about, i.e. their careers. And since we’ll never have the cash to compete with Exxon, we better work in the currencies we can muster: bodies, spirit, passion.

The time has come to knock the halo off of the heads of the obstacles to progress and quality of life.  While the old way of making power, combusting decomposed carbon–based life forms (i.e., fossil fuels) contributed to prosperity and improvement to quality of life through 20th century industrialization; we are facing a much different earth and atmosphere.  Unchecked burning of fossil fuels and emissions of GHGs are detracting from our quality of life and will continue to do so for decades after they are emitted.   The coal-fired power plant near you is not your friend; its day to day activities are undercutting your health, environment, economy and well-being for no good reason except for its tenacity in resisting beneficial change.

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