EDITORIAL: EPA's global-warming power grab

Scientific scandals and record snowfalls have begun to melt away the congressional appetite for more global-warming regulations. On Sunday, to take the latest example, a major scientific journal admitted that “oversights” compelled the retraction of its conclusion that sea levels were rising as a result of increased worldwide temperatures. Reports of this sort make it increasingly difficult for members of Congress to enter iced-over districts to ask their constituents to make economic sacrifices in an attempt to appease Mother Earth into favoring us with colder weather. This does not mean, however, that the left has given up on global warming as a means of exerting more government control over the economy. To avoid a potentially messy vote, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has turned to the administrative rule-making process to impose climate-control regulations. In December, the agency made an “endangerment finding” that declared that six gases – including the carbon dioxide you are exhaling as you read this – are putting the planet’s well-being in peril. The first major rule based on this finding will be finalized next month. President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, warned that such a finding would result in a major government power grab. “[T]he potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land,” he explained. Fortunately, Mr. Obama’s team might not get away with it. So far, 40 senators have signed on to an effort by Sen. Lisa A. Murkowski, Alaska Republican, to nullify the EPA endangerment finding. Three Democrats have been willing to co-sponsor the legislation, but Senate sources suggest a number of others may be willing to vote for the bill when it comes to the floor. Mrs. Murkowski, who takes a moderate stand on the issue, is key to lining up the bipartisan support required for passage. In the past, the Alaska senator has embraced government efforts to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, including a limited form of cap-and-trade. Her resolution is evidence that both sides of the global-warming issue can agree that such a fundamental public-policy question should not be decided by unelected bureaucrats. Both sides also should be troubled by the EPA’s twisting of the Clean Air Act, which originally was designed to cut down on actual pollutants, into regulating so-called greenhouse gases. Instead of preventing smokestacks from belching noxious fumes and toxic chemicals harmful to the health of human beings, the agency has made its new enemy No. 1 a cow chewing grass in a field. Citing U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, the EPA declared “enteric fermentation” – a fancy phrase to refer to a cow’s natural emissions in the field – to be the primary source of methane, which is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in planetary warming. The EPA placed what it called a “primary reliance” on reports like those of the IPCC instead of conducting independent research to make its finding. Given the retractions and revelations of faulty science surrounding the global-warming religion, especially at the IPCC, it’s time to take the issue out of the EPA’s hands so Congress can address it in the open. The Senate should pass Mrs. Murkowski’s disapproval resolution when it comes for an expected vote next month.

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