News Story

The Economic Punishment Agency

If President Barack Obama can't get his controversial "cap-and-trade" energy legislation passed, some experts feel he'll turn to the Environmental Protection Agency to get the same results.

The concern over the growing power of the EPA was the focus of a forum last week during the "Defending the American Dream" summit in Clarkston.

Keynote speaker Sarah Palin said that EPA stood for "Economic Punishment Agency."

Others talked about the EPA's growing power since it ruled carbon dioxide was a pollutant last year. The EPA can control through the Clean Air Act how much carbon dioxide is emitted.

Cap-and-trade legislation refers to the government controlling emissions that are tied to energy production. Companies would be allowed a certain level of emissions and then have to purchase or trade for the ability to exceed their limit.

President Obama told a San Francisco newspaper that under cap-and-trade, electricity rates would "necessarily skyrocket" and "that if someone wants to build a coal power plant, they can, it is just it will bankrupt them because they're gonna be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that is being emitted."

But cap-and-trade legislation has died, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Now, free enterprise supporters fear President Obama may go the route of the EPA to get his agenda enacted.

Tim Phillips, national director of Americans for Prosperity, said when he was at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, one of the most chilling things he heard came from Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA.

Phillips said that Jackson, an Obama appointee, said the EPA would "transform the way the American economy works."

EPA officials said Jackson's quote was, "As a start, we are working to revitalize and refashion the U.S. economy for the low-carbon, clean energy future."

Cathy Milbourne, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said the agency wouldn't comment on pending legislation. The EPA provided Jackson's comments at the Copenhagen summit.

Dave Hamilton, director of global warming and energy programs for the Sierra Club, said critics can't say the EPA is not following proper procedure.

Hamilton said the Clean Air Act was a "very congressionally prescribed process."

"The EPA is simply working with a very prescribed method to deal with new pollutants," Hamilton said. "The whole 'EPA is subverting the will of Congress' is complete fiction. The idea that the EPA is going wild is completely deceptive."

Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., said cap-and-trade legislation will drive jobs to other countries that "overwhelmingly" reject that agenda and would have no impact on the climate.

"We don't need to be fundamentally transformed," Horner said.

Horner contended that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

"Try living without it," Horner told a forum crowd on Saturday. "It's plant food."

Russ Harding, director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Property Rights Network, said he didn't think the EPA regulations could survive.

"EPA's attempted regulation of CO2 by using the Clean Air Act will result in a regulatory stranglehold over the American economy," Harding wrote in an e-mail. "Small businesses and even individuals will be drawn into the CO2 regulatory net driving up costs and reducing the competiveness of American companies. As bad as EPA regulation of CO2 is — it is still preferable to Cap and Trade legislation. If Cap and Trade legislation becomes law it will be difficult to get rid of it. EPA regulation of CO2 will collapse under its own bureaucratic weight."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.