Explaining EPA’s Authority Under the Clean Air Act to Address Climate Change

In a new white paper by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR), Amy Sinden and I try to  clear up some misconceptions about climate change and the Clean Air Act. Critics of EPA maintain that the Clean Air Act is somehow an inappropriate tool to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and that EPA should be prohibited from regulating. It is true that the Clean Air Act was not specifically tailored to the task of curbing GHGs, and that it would undoubtedly be desirable for Congress to pass vigorous legislation that would write a comprehensive climate change framework into law. But it is simply not the case that the Clean Air Act is, in any way, “inappropriate.” As the Supreme Court affirmed in its landmark ruling in Massachusetts vs. EPA, the Clean Air Act plainly anticipated air pollution hazards that were not at the time known to the drafters of the legislation, and provided EPA with tools to reduce the emission of such pollutants. The White Paper clears up six myths about the statute and EPA’s actions in order to demonstrate that EPA’s efforts are a reasonable first step toward regulation of greenhouse gases.

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One Reply to “Explaining EPA’s Authority Under the Clean Air Act to Address Climate Change”

  1. Dan —

    I agree with most of the points that you make, but it’s hard to take a white paper like this seriously if it does not address stationary source regulation and the problems that prompted the EPA to adopt the “tailoring rule.” The Obama EPA claimed it need to rewrite the Act’s numerical emission thresholds because it is simply not possible to apply the Act as written. That seems to be a pretty strong argument that the Clean Air Act, as written, is not a “reasonable” means of addressing GHGs.

    Jonathan H. Adler

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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