By: Tom Harris and Dr. Jay Lehr
On Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (Washington) that it be granted intervenor status concerning the litigation launched by environmental groups against the Trump administration’s new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The case in question, v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 19-1140, concerns attempts by environmental groups to strike down the ACE rule and resurrect the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Chamber wants to be able to intervene in the case in defence of ACE.
The Chamber’s focus is on the legal aspects of ACE and CPP, and this will perhaps be valuable. However, it sidesteps the most important issue: both ACE and CPP are unnecessary since they rest on a faulty premise, namely, the misguided notion that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must be reduced to avoid a climate crisis.
The appellants for the case, the American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association, represented by attorneys from the Clean Air Task Force, certainly pull no punches in their pronouncements. They charged in their July 8 press release, “EPA’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the ACE rule continues to disregard the vast health consequences of climate change and puts more lives at risk.”
That is nonsense, of course. But that didn’t stop other groups from taking a similar approach. Carter Roberts, President & CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, said, “This rule [ACE] enables dirty power plants to keep polluting – grounding federal energy policy firmly in the past and saddling future generations with the costs of unchecked climate change.” Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club said, “This is an immoral and an illegal attack on clean air, clean energy, and the health of the public, and it shows just how heartless the Trump administration is when it comes to appeasing its polluter allies.”
Environmentalists, Democrats and some state attorney generals dubbed the regulation the “Dirty Power Plan” and more law suits against ACE are apparently on the way.
If Trump administration advisors thought they could appease their opponents by bringing in a rule focused on the useless and ultimately dangerous goal of limiting CO2 emissions, they were sorely mistaken. But, as long as they did not contest the scientifically flawed idea that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant that must be controlled, they really had no choice but to bring in some form of CO2 reduction regulation.
Dr. Sterling Burnett, Senior Fellow of the Arlington Heights, IL-based Heartland Institute explained on the internet “Think Radio” program, “Exploratory Journeys, “It [ACE] was forced on the Trump administration because they didn’t, at the same time, say we are going to re-examine the Endangerment Finding [the EPA’s 2009 finding that CO2 and other ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHG) endanger the health and welfare of Americans].”
“As long as the Endangerment Finding [EF] exists,” said Burnett, “any administration, no matter how skeptical of the claims that humans are causing catastrophic climate change,…the courts will order them to come up with plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. So, it’s time to go back and examine that [the EF].”
It is hard to believe that the attacks that would ensue against the current administration for opening the GHG EF to re-examination would be any more severe than what they are already being subjected to by enabling the ACE rule. So, there is little, if any, political upside to bringing in a weaker version of Obama’s misguided CPP. If you are going to infuriate your opponents to the extent that they will take out lawsuits against you and publicly label you “the worst president in U.S. history for protecting the air and our climate,” as Brune did after Trump’s environment speech on July 8, you might as well do what you really wanted to instead of taking half measures.
Burnett explained that ACE has another serious downside that will limit the Trump EPA going forward.
“ACE is dangerous because it cements for a second time, this time by a Republican, supposedly skeptical administration, the idea carbon dioxide is a pollutant that needs to be regulated,” said Burnett. “This gives the Endangerment Finding the Trump administration’s stamp of public approval, which environmentalists will cite when they fight this in court saying, ‘even the Trump administration acknowledges carbon dioxide is damaging the U.S. but they are unwilling to take the steps necessary to truly fight carbon pollution.’”
It’s time for the Trump administration, the Chamber, and indeed, everyone who wants sensible environmental policy to call a spade a spade. Rather than merely engaging their enemies in legal arguments, while fighting activists on their own ground, they should clearly state that CO2 endangers no one and the EF should be reopened. And, when the re-examination inevitably reveals that effectively classifying CO2 as a pollutant was a mistake, they should not be quiet about it. They must follow Winston Churchill’s advice: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack.”
Dr. Jay Lehr is Senior Policy Analyst with the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. He will be receiving the Dauntless Purveyor of Climate Truth Award from The Heartland Institute at ICCC-13.
Tom Harris is ICSC Executive Director
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.