Thursday, December 06, 2018

More OD Confusion and Over-Simplification re Environmental Policy . . .

The OD Editorial "Good environmental policy nature's best healer" states the obvious.  Good environmental laws have produced great benefits for both our environment and "We the People."  

The editorial board goes wrong when it, again, conflates acid rain with climate change, seemingly for the purpose of taking a pot shot at President Trump for rescinding the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan.  The issues of Climate Change and Acid Rain are different, scientifically and legally.

Acid Rain is caused by specific pollutants that are listed in the Clean Air Act (CAA) because Congress determined that the benefits of regulating those pollutants outweighed the detriments.  The "Clean Power Plan" (CPP), however, had nothing to do with the listed pollutants, but,  rather,  was directed toward reducing CO2 in the belief that it would help to prevent Climate Change.

Neither CO2 nor Climate Change are mentioned in the CAA because Congress was not able to agree that these should be subject to regulation.  

Regulation of CO2 was authorized under a different provision of the CAA, based upon an EPA (not Congressional) finding that CO2 causes sufficient harm to humans to be worth regulating.  Because a regulation impacts people's lives, the determination is not purely a scientific one, but, rather, it has a political component.   While there appears to be a scientific consensus that CO2 should be regulated, that is not the same as Congress (or an administrative agency) that are ultimately answerable to the people making that determination. 

Since a number of scientists do not see a clear benefit from regulating CO2, the Trump Administration is free to rely upon their opinions, rescind the EPA finding, and rescind the CPP. 

If the Editorial Board, or OD readers, are sincere in their belief that CO2 needs to be regulated, they need to lobby Congress to change the CAA to specifically regulate CO2 to prevent Climate Change. It will then be up to Congress to balance the benefits against the detriments to determine if such regulation is needed. 

If Congress strikes the wrong balance it will have a political price to pay (as is apparently happening now in France with the "Gilet Jaune" (Yellow Vest) movement).

In the end, Protecting the Environment must always involve doing what is Best for People.