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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