President Bush's greatest crime against the environment was his refusal to regulate greenhouse gases. The Obama administration is reportedly wasting little time righting that wrong.
Quoting unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has sent the White House a preliminary finding that climate change is endangering public health and welfare. If this is cleared by the Office of Management and Budget and finalized by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, it would lay the groundwork for national regulation of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases. That would have an impact on the economy, though whether positive or negative is a matter of debate.
Firmly focused on the downside is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long argued that a climate-change crackdown would devastate Main Street America, imposing costly permitting requirements on such facilities as schools, hospitals and office buildings. Reacting to news of the pending EPA finding, chamber officials are even claiming that it would undermine President Obama's economic stimulus package because infrastructure projects to be built with the money would be delayed by reviews of their impact on greenhouse gases.
Not really. The EPA finding would apply only to emissions from vehicles. If the agency does find that they endanger the public, it would add urgency to a process that's already underway to toughen fuel-efficiency standards. Eventually, it might also lead to regulation of emissions from other sources, particularly power plants. But that's years away, and onerous rules for schools and offices are unlikely. As for the stimulus money, most or all will be spent by the time the EPA gets around to regulating new construction.