Are Federal Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations A Sensible Strategy for Climate Change?
The Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly working on new regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, according to newly confirmed Administrator Michael Regan. Such regulation would attempt to fill the void left by the repeal of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and judicial invalidation of the Trump Administration’s paltry replacement. The EPA is under pressure to move quickly in order to support the Administration’s ambitious climate targets. Some expect the Administration to embrace the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 50 percent within a decade.
Coming anywhere close to such emission reductions requires immediate action. Thus it’s curious that the EPA, environmentalist organizations, and Congressional Democrats are placing so much emphasis on federal regulations in their climate strategies. What they seem to ignore are the legal, administrative, and procedural constraints on using federal regulation as a rapid emission-reduction tool. If a 5-4 Supreme Court was willing to stay the Clean Power Plan, what are the chances a 6-3 Court would sustain a CPP 2.0 or (more ambitiously) an attempt to declare carbon dioxide a criteria air pollutant. (Briefs rejecting the latter move under UARG almost write themselves.)
The regulatory process is slow, and many regulatory strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are highly vulnerable to legal challenge, as I explain in a just-released analysis authored for the Niskanen Center, “Legal and Administrative Pitfalls that May Confront Climate Regulation.” If the goal is rapid decarbonization, fiscal tools such as a carbon tax, are a much more promising way to go.
From the paper’s introduction:
There is a mismatch between the stated urgency of the problem and the focus on federal regulation as the dominant climate policy tool. Environmental advocates and the Biden administration are committed to urgent action on climate change, as dramatic and rapid reductions in greenhouse gases are necessary to meet the administration’s lon
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