Yesterday, as expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding that emissions of six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, pose a threat to public health and welfare due to their contribution to global warming. The EPA further found that the emission of such gases from motor vehicles contribute to dangerous concentrations in the atmosphere. The EPA announcement is here.I predict that this little tweak is going to have the same stunning effect upon the economy as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The proposed findings will now go through a 60-day public comment period. Shortly thereafter, the findings will be finalized. Industry and anti-regulatory groups will almost certainly challenge the findings in court, and their legal challenges will almost certainly fail. Even if one doubts the accumulated scientific evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to climate change and that climate change is a serious environmental concern, the standard of review is such that the EPA will have no difficulty defending its rule. Federal courts are extremely deferential to agency assessments of the relevant scientific evidence when reviewing such determinations. Moreover, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA Administrator need only "reasonably . . . anticipate" in her own "judgment" that GHG emissions threaten public health and welfare in order to make the findings, and there is ample evidence upon which the EPA Administrator could conclude that climate change is a serious threat. This is a long way of saying that even if climate skeptics are correct, the EPA has ample legal authority to make the endangerment findings.
The good news is that this legislation can be painted as a vampire, and candidates can run on the promise of putting a stake through the very heart of this smiling, fanged menace.